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Path: /nascar/fantasy-nascar-picks-food-city-500-bristol-motor-speedway

The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit rolls on to one of its most anticipated stops of spring for the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. To help guide you through the 2013 Fantasy NASCAR season, Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long will be offering his best predictions for each race. And because Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game is arguably the most popular, he’ll break down the picks according to its NASCAR driver classes — A-List, B-List, C-List.

So, without further ado, Dustin's fantasy predictions for Bristol, ranked according to each driver's likelihood of taking the checkered flag — or at least finishing toward the front:

1. Jimmie Johnson
Hottest driver on the circuit. Johnson has an average running position of 4.2, best in the season’s first three races, and has the best average finishing position (3.0) in the series. Also, he has four consecutive top 10s at Bristol, most among active drivers.

2. Brad Keselowski
Not too far behind Johnson in the fast start category (average finish of 3.7) and heads to a track in Bristol where he’s won two of the last three races.

3. Matt Kenseth
Has led a series-high 128 laps this season with 86 of those coming in the Daytona 500. His 25th-place finish in the Bristol night race in August broke a string of six consecutive top-10 finishes there. He’s led in each of the last three Bristol races.

4. Denny Hamlin
Won the Bristol night race in August, leading 70 laps. Has two top-10 finishes in his last three starts there.

5. Kasey Kahne
Has best average start this season (4.0) on the circuit. Has three top-10 finishes in last five races at Bristol and led 42 laps there in the night race.

6. Clint Bowyer
Scored a pair of top-10 finishes last year at Bristol. Best finish so far this season is a sixth at Phoenix.

7. Jeff Gordon
Has been passed 44 more times under green than he’s passed this season and has an average start of 5.7 but average finish of 18.0 in 2013. Has not a had a top-10 finish in the spring Bristol race in the past three years.

8. Tony Stewart
Has not finished better than 14th in his last five Bristol races. Seems to be typical Tony where he starts the season slow (his best finish so far is an eighth at Phoenix).

9. Kevin Harvick
Harvick has an average running position of 16.6 in the first three races of this season. Has one top-10 finish in last eight races at Bristol.

<p> Dustin Long ranks each driver on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit for this weekend's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - 12:56
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy, News
Path: /mlb/2013-fantasy-baseball-rankings-shortstop

Opening Day is less than three weeks away, meaning the fantasy baseball season is quickly approaching. Drafts are going across the country, and probably the globe, and Athlon Sports' annual Baseball Preview magazine is available on newsstands everywhere.

Besides providing our comprehensive Fantasy Baseball Big Board, we also have our positional rankings, courtesy of Bruce Herman, straight from our magazine for you to peruse, utilize and scrutinize as we get ever so closer to hear those beloved words, "Play ball!"

Rankings Key
A: FRANCHISE PLAYER — You need one to compete, two to win, three to dominate.
B: CAREER YEAR — Veteran with a strong possibility of delivering his best season.
C: SLEEPER — Could be a great acquisition at a price or draft slot below his true value.
D: ROADBLOCKED — Rank has been lowered because there is no current opportunity to play regularly.
E: DECLINER — Expect moderately to significantly worse stats than in 2012.
F: INJURY RISK — Has had a recent injury that could affect performance.
G: INVESTOR’S SPECIAL — Top prospect whose immediate impact may be minimal.

Batting stats are expressed AVG-HR-RBI-R-SB

Fantasy Baseball Positional Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | DH | SP | RP

Athlon Sports' 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Shortstop

1. Jose Reyes, Blue Jays (A)
Reyes avoided multi-week injuries for the first time since 2008, and despite his 50-point AVG dip to .287, he seemed to be a little stronger and more selective. The relocation to Rogers Centre and a heartier supporting cast will only help, so — beyond the fact that he’s a 40-, not 60-base thief at this stage — there’s every reason to believe this can be a vintage year.

2. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies (A,F)
Unless any red flags are unfurled in spring, Tulo should be past the obstinate groin injury that is the only reason we’re rating him below Reyes. He was in such a class of his own between April 2009 and May 2012 (when he shut it down), that his .923 OPS as a shortstop was followed distantly on the list by .861, .779, .774 and .763.

3. Starlin Castro, Cubs
Castro led the league in outs made (again), errors (again) and caught stealing (“improved” from 10th). Despite his Cub in a china shop approach to the game, he’s the only player since A-Rod to amass 500 hits before his 23rd birthday, and he’s potentially a .300-30-100-100-30 player. Advice for keeper leagues: Draft him, take two Dramamines and call me in 2015.

4. Hanley Ramirez, Dodgers
Whether it be increasing body mass or increasing bank account, Ramirez resembles the player he was from 2006-10 only in bursts. Nevertheless, he went 20-20 again and remains the solitary player with 150 homers and 200 steals the last seven years. Unfortunately, Ramirez sustained a thumb injury on March 19 in the championship game of the World Baseball Classic while playing for the Dominican Republic. Ramirez will undergo surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb, which is expected to sideline him for eight weeks, meaning he will be out until at least the latter part of May.

5. Elvis Andrus, Rangers
Among active players, only A-Rod and Miguel Cabrera had more hits by their age-23 seasons than Andrus, and just Carl Crawford and Reyes stole more bases. Had but five of the latter after last year’s All-Star break for some reason.

6. Ian Desmond, Nationals
Commensurate with a swap to uniform No. 20 as a tribute to Frank Robinson, Desmond went from a two-year OPS of .677 to a Silver Slugger-worthy and MLB shortstop-leading .845. Too much of a wild swinger to assume that this is perennially attainable, but he’s clearly taken a stride.

7. Alexei Ramirez, White Sox
If Reyes and Tulo are the supermodel shortstops, Ramirez is the cutie next door with the winning personality. In at least four of his five seasons, his ranges have been .269-to-.290 for AVG, 15-to-21 for HRs, 70-to-77 for RBIs, 65-to-83 for runs and 13-to-20 for SBs. More of a go-to guy than a go-get guy.

8. Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians
No. 1 RBI and No. 2 HR operative among AL shortstops the past two years. Regressed a notch in 2012 as concerns about fitness hinted that he may be trending all Jhonny Peralta on us. Good player who, though just 27, has maxed out at “good.”

9. Jimmy Rollins, Phillies (E)
Rollins is on the cusp of being the 10th player in history with 200 homers and 400 steals, and last season he was the oldest (33) shortstop ever with 20 of one and 30 of the other. Weak hitter for average, and common sense augurs against a rerun of 2012.

10. Alcides Escobar, Royals
At Kauffman Stadium, you’d think Elvis was in the building. Escobar is a similar player to Andrus, busting out with a .293 AVG and 35 SBs. He’s two years older, though, and may never develop an authentic mastery of the strike zone.

11. J.J. Hardy, Orioles
One of the top four power-oriented shortstops. Has batted better than .270 twice in eight seasons, and has thieved one base in four years.

12. Derek Jeter, Yankees (E,F)
Buzzkill alert. No 39-year-old shortstop has ever hit 10 homers, and none has whacked .300 since the 1940s. Jeter’s done a lot of stuff others haven’t, but prudence and ankle surgery must drive the probabilities.

13. Erick Aybar, Angels
A target for the steal-starved — fifth at the position since 2010. Run-scoring inhibited by low slots in batting order.

14. Jean Segura, Brewers (C)
23-year-old neophyte who’s being rushed a little. Hit .198 in his first 23 games, then .329 in his last 22. Liable to scuffle with the bat for awhile, but has a shot to steal 25 or more sacks.

15. Stephen Drew, Red Sox
A three-year-average stretch of .277-16-64-82 (2008-10) remains a siren song, but we’re pretty sure that ship has sailed. Nothing’s real sure where a Drew is involved.

16. Jed Lowrie, Astros
17. Zack Cozart, Reds
18. Jhonny Peralta, Tigers
19. Andrelton Simmons, Braves (C)
20. Eduardo Nunez, Yankees (B,C,D)

21. Yunel Escobar, Rays
22. Everth Cabrera, Padres
23. Rafael Furcal, Cardinals (F)
24. Brandon Crawford, Giants
25. Hiroyuki Nakajima, Athletics
26. Jurickson Profar, Rangers (D,G)
27. Cliff Pennington, Athletics
28. Adeiny Hechavarria, Marlins
29. Ruben Tejada, Mets
30. Dee Gordon, Dodgers (D,G)

31. Mike Aviles, Indians (E)
32. Clint Barmes, Pirates
33. Brendan Ryan, Mariners
34. Pedro Florimon, Twins
35. Marwin Gonzalez, Astros
36. Didi Gregorius, Diamondbacks (G)
37. Pete Kozma, Cardinals
38. Hak-Ju Lee, Rays (G)
39. Alex Gonzalez, Milwaukee (F)
40. Ronny Cedeno, St. Louis Cardinals

Related Content:
2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Big Board
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Relief Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball: Closer Grid
2013 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2013

<p> 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Shortstop</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - 12:07
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy, News
Path: /mlb/2013-fantasy-baseball-rankings-designated-hitter

Opening Day is less than three weeks away, meaning the fantasy baseball season is quickly approaching. Drafts are going across the country, and probably the globe, and Athlon Sports' annual Baseball Preview magazine is available on newsstands everywhere.

Besides providing our comprehensive Fantasy Baseball Big Board, we also have our positional rankings, courtesy of Bruce Herman, straight from our magazine for you to peruse, utilize and scrutinize as we get ever so closer to hear those beloved words, "Play ball!"

Rankings Key
A: FRANCHISE PLAYER — You need one to compete, two to win, three to dominate.
B: CAREER YEAR — Veteran with a strong possibility of delivering his best season.
C: SLEEPER — Could be a great acquisition at a price or draft slot below his true value.
D: ROADBLOCKED — Rank has been lowered because there is no current opportunity to play regularly.
E: DECLINER — Expect moderately to significantly worse stats than in 2012.
F: INJURY RISK — Has had a recent injury that could affect performance.
G: INVESTOR’S SPECIAL — Top prospect whose immediate impact may be minimal.

Batting stats are expressed AVG-HR-RBI-R-SB

Fantasy Baseball Positional Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | DH | SP | RP

Athlon Sports' 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Designated Hitter

1. Billy Butler, Royals
Butler has done a superb job of transitioning into a home run hitter without compromising high batting averages. His .313-29-107 triple crown components were matched by only Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. Eighty-two players scored more runs, because he can be timed by the Mayan Calendar.

2. Victor Martinez, Tigers (F)
After forfeiting 2012 to a knee, catching days are probably over. Martinez’s bat is magical, however — batting title- and RBI crown-contention magical. Gives away a dozen or so homers to Butler, but everything else is comparable.

3. David Ortiz, Red Sox (F)
So who’s your Papi? The one who floundered at .244 from 2008 through April 2010, or the one who’s hit .303 since? Either way, the power has never flagged. Missed most of the second half with an Achilles injury, and his age (37) and girth make such things a recurrent risk.

4. Adam Dunn, White Sox
A .204 AVG and 222 SOs get you the Comeback Player of the Year Award? No secret here: Dunn is a love-hate fantasy player who, since 2004, has been out-homered by one player (Albert Pujols) and out-batting-averaged by — count ’em — 951.

5. Mark Trumbo, Angels (E)
Dunn lite. Circles 30 homers, but because he got into hitter’s counts only 25.2 percent of time (the majors’ lowest rate by a cavernous margin), saw his AVG dive 102 points after mid-May.

6. Lance Berkman, Rangers (F)
Remains very dangerous, but lack of conditioning makes him even more susceptible to injury than your run-of-the-mill 37-year-old.

7. Carlos Pena, Astros
Another all-or-nothing type who’s beginning to age out of “all.” Pena’s .234 AVG is easily the lowest in history for a first baseman with 5,000 plate appearances. Playing in Houston makes 25 HRs doable.

8. Adam Lind, Blue Jays
Went .305-35-114-93 in 2009, but has been so lost since then that he was temporarily minorized in 2012. Hit .296 with moderate power when he got back.

9. Jason Bay, Mariners (F)
Similar descent as Lind’s, but with even deeper valleys. Fresh start and closer left field target in modified Safeco give him a fighting chance to figure it out.

Related Content:
2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Big Board
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Relief Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball: Closer Grid
2013 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2013

<p> Clone of 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Designated Hitter</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - 12:00
Path: /college-basketball/2013-pac-12-conference-tournament-preview

March Madness is just getting started as the college basketball season shifts to the conference tournaments. Titles will be won, NCAA Tournament spots will be clinched or lost all over the country. Here’s what to watch in the Pac-12.

Starts: March 13
Final: March 16 in Las Vegas (ESPN)
No. 8 Stanford vs. No. 9 Arizona State
No. 5 Colorado vs. No. 12 Oregon State
No. 7 USC vs. No. 10 Utah
No. 6 Washington vs. No. 11 Washington State

First-round byes:
No. 1 UCLA
No. 2 Cal
No. 3 Oregon
No. 4 Arizona

Full Bracket: (.pdf)

Other conference tournament previews:
Big 12 | Big East
| Mountain West | SEC

It hasn’t been the smoothest ride, but UCLA captured the outright Pac-12 title with a 13–5 record. The Bruins have a ton of talent, even if it hasn’t been the most cohesive group in the league. UCLA won the league outright, but the Bruins were hardly immune from the inconsistency throughout the league. In only the final week, the Bruins sleep walked through a loss to Washington. Facing a hungry Stanford or Arizona State team in the quarterfinals could be problematic.

The Trojans played well after Bob Cantu took over for Kevin O’Neill on an interim basis in late January. In the 7-7 stretch under Cantu, USC has wins over UCLA and Stanford on the road and Washington and Arizona at home. The key is the play of Eric Wise. The senior went 9 of 12 in an upset of Arizona on Feb. 27 but went 4 of 16 with 14 points combined in back-to-back losses to the Washington schools to end the regular season.

The Golden Bears ended the season on a down note — a home loss to rival Stanford — but had previously won seven straight games. Pac-12 player of the year Allen Crabbe is capable of carrying his team to the title. Fellow guard Justin Cobbs finished the season on a hot streak, but he must cut his turnovers.

Related: Top Buzzer Beaters for 2012-13 (so far)

Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA

Arizona State/Stanford: The five teams projected to be in the bracket for the Pac-12 appear to be pretty safe even if Cal, Colorado and Oregon lose their conference tournament openers. Arizona State and Stanford are marginal bubble teams, who will eliminate the other when they face each other in the first round. Things could get interesting if the Arizona State-Stanford winner knocks off No. 1 seed UCLA in the quarterfinal.

Related: All 2013 postseason college basketball coverage

<p> 2013 Pac-12 Conference Tournament Preview</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - 11:20
Path: /college-basketball/2013-big-12-conference-tournament-preview

March Madness is just getting started as the college basketball season shifts to the conference tournaments. Titles will be won, NCAA Tournament spots will be clinched or lost all over the country. Here’s what to watch in the Big 12.

Starts: March 13
Final: March 16 in Kansas City (ESPN)
First-round games:
No. 8 West Virginia vs. No. 9 Texas Tech (Wednesday)
No. 7 Texas vs. No. 10 TCU (Wednesday)
No. 4 Oklahoma vs. No. 5 Iowa State (Thursday)
No. 1 Kansas vs. West Virginia/Texas Tech (Thursday)
No. 2 Kansas State vs. Texas/TCU (Thursday)
No. 3 Oklahoma State vs. No. 6 Baylor (Thursday)

Full Bracket: (.pdf)

Other conference tournament previews:
Big East | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC

Kansas has stubbed its toe on several occasions this season, but Bill Self’s club still managed to grab a share of the Big 12 title for the ninth straight season. Point guard will be worth watching as it has been all season. Elijah Johnson has scored 29 total points in three games since his 39-point outburst against Iowa State.

Despite its 9–9 Big 12 record, Baylor might have the league’s most talented roster. The Bears showed what they are capable of on Saturday, rolling past Kansas 81–58 in the season-finale in Waco. We could see Pierre Jackson, Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson reach the final... or just as easily lose to Oklahoma State in a rout.

Oklahoma State and Kansas State are both very good, but Kansas is a veteran team — the Jayhawks start four seniors — that will be playing for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The exception in the KU starting lineup may be the best freshman in the country in Ben McLemore.

Related: Top Buzzer Beaters for 2012-13 (so far)

Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State

The Sooners were close to lock status back in mid-February, but it might be warranted to worry about OU. The Sooners lost on Feb. 27 at Texas in overtime and then joined Kansas as the only Big 12 teams to lose to TCU. A loss to Iowa State won’t knock the Sooners out, but two wins over Iowa State in the final weeks of the season would be a compelling case if OU ends up on the bubble.

Iowa State
The Cyclones picked up a resume-boosting win by defeating Oklahoma State on March 6. Like Oklahoma, Iowa State may be a Tournament team no matter what happens in its quarterfinal game against the Sooners, but the winner Thursday should feel secure while the loser will have to hope it doesn’t get caught in a number crunch.

It was easy to give up on Baylor after the Bears lost to Texas on March 4 to fall below .500 in the league. Scott Drew’s team still needs to win a few games in the Big 12 Tournament to get into the field, but Baylor’s 81-58 win over Kansas on Saturday reinforced this team has the talent to make a run.

Related: All 2013 postseason college basketball coverage

<p> Can Kansas claim another Big 12 Tournament title? Will Oklahoma or Iowa State pick up a crucial win?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - 11:15
Path: /college-basketball/2013-sec-tournament-preview

March Madness is just getting started as the college basketball season shifts to the conference tournaments. Titles will be won, NCAA Tournament spots will be clinched or lost all over the country. Here’s what to watch in the SEC.

Starts: Thursday
Final: Sunday in Nashville, Tenn. (ABC)
Early round games
No. 12 South Carolina vs. No. 13 Mississippi State (Wednesday)
No. 11 Texas A&M vs. No. 14 Auburn (Wednesday)
No. 8 Georgia vs. No. 9 LSU (Thursday)
No. 5 Tennessee vs. South Carolina/Mississippi State (Thursday)
No. 7 Arkansas vs. No. 10 Vanderbilt (Thursday)
No. 6 Missouri vs. Texas A&M/Auburn

Byes to the quarterfinals:
No. 1 Florida
No. 2 Kentucky
No. 3 Ole Miss
No. 4 Alabama

Full Bracket: (.pdf)

Other conference tournament previews:
Big 12 | Big East | Mountain West | Pac-12

Florida stumbled down the stretch on the road in league play, but the Gators were clearly the best team in the league all season long. Florida will need to prove it can win away from Gainesville (the Gators went 7-6 on the road) and win close games (the Gators were 0-5 in games decided by single digits). Plan your brackets accordingly.

DARK HORSE: Tennessee
Any team with Jordan McRae, Trae Golden and Jarnell Stokes is capable of winning four games in four days. The Vols have won eight of nine, and probably need to win two more to secure an at-large invite to the NCAA Tournament. A talented team that went 8-1 down the stretch and needs to win games? Seems like a good mix.

It’s always dangerous to pick against Kentucky — which will have the majority of the fan support — at the SEC Tournament, but the Wildcats simply have not been able to win consistently enough to trust them in the SEC Tournament. Florida has the talent and could re-focus in time to win its first SEC Tourney since 2007.

Related: Top Buzzer Beaters for 2012-13 (so far)

Florida, Missouri

The Wildcats may have the strongest case of any of the five bubble teams in the SEC. Kentucky was in the field before Nerlens Noel got hurt and defeated Missouri and Florida at home in close games after Noel’s injury. But Kentucky also lost by 30 to Tennessee in Knoxville, plus on the road to Arkansas and Georgia. Avoid a loss to Vanderbilt or Arkansas in the first game, and John Calipari will feel more confident about defending his title.

The Volunteers surged at the end of the season with only one loss after Feb. 6. The run included wins at home over Kentucky, Florida and Missouri, but Georgia continued to be the Achilles’ heel for the Vols. Lucky for Cuonzo Martin, Tennessee won’t see the Bulldogs unless it’s in a conference title game. A bad loss to either South Carolina or Mississippi State might knock Tennessee out. A win over Alabama in the quarterfinals might be enough to keep the Vols in.

Ole Miss
The Rebels earned a bye to the quarterfinals, where they’ll hope to meet Missouri again. The Tigers will likely head to the NCAA Tournament with a strong non-conference resume, but they’re seeded sixth in the SEC. If Ole Miss draws Missouri, the Rebels will have a chance to prove their signature win of the season wasn’t a product of playing the Tigers in Oxford without Laurence Bowers.

Losing to LSU and needing a miracle halfcourt shot to beat Georgia is not a great way to get into the field, especially for a Crimson Tide team with losses to Auburn, Tulane, Mercer and Dayton on the resume. It’s tough to see this team reaching the field without wins over Tennessee in the quarters and Florida in the semis, at least.

At home, Arkansas is a sure-bet tournament team. Away from Fayetteville, the Hogs are beatable by everyone but Auburn. We list Arkansas as a bubble team because of the Razorbacks’ potential when they’re on their games. That said, it may be automatic bid or bust.

Related: All 2013 postseason college basketball coverage

<p> 2013 SEC Tournament Preview</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy, News
Path: /mlb/2013-fantasy-baseball-rankings-big-board

Spring training is in full swing. The World Baseball Classic is halfway done. But most importantly of all, Opening Day is less than three weeks away.

This also means that the fantasy baseball season is close at hand. Draft time is drawing near and rankings can be found all over the Internet. Athlon Sports' 26th annual MLB Baseball Preview annual is on newsstands now, which includes complete fantasy positional rankings.

In addition, Athlon also has constructed the truest and most comprehensive 2013 Fantasy Baseball Big Board available online. The updated 2013 Big Board features the rankings of these trusted and respected sites:,, FF (FFTB),,,, (RAZZ), RotoChamp (RC), (USA) and Yahoo! Sports (Y!) averaged into one consensus top 200.

Ryan Braun grabs the top spot on the updated Big Board, but he's not an uanimous No. 1 across the board. Braun was ranked No. 1 by five different sites with AL Rookie of the Year Mike Trout picking up four No. 1 votes and Triple Crown winner and AL MVP Miguel Cabrera receiving the other one. Trout probably would have ended up no lower than third overall had it not been for's somewhat curious No. 26 ranking of the young Angels' outfielder.

Fantasy Baseball Positional Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | DH | SP | RP

2013 Consensus Fantasy Baseball Big Board:

1 Ryan Braun MIL OF 1 1 2 1 1 3 2 2 1 2
2 Miguel Cabrera DET 3B 2 3 3 2 2 2 1 3 2 3
3 Robinson Cano NYY 2B 4 4 4 6 3 5 5 4 3 4
4 Mike Trout LAA OF 3 2 1 3 26 1 4 1 7 1
5 Albert Pujols LAA 1B 5 7 7 4 6 6 6 12 8 6
6 Andrew McCutchen PIT OF 7 5 5 5 10 8 3 13 5 8
7 Matt Kemp LAD OF 6 6 6 7 13 4 14 8 4 5
8 Joey Votto CIN 1B 8 9 9 9 7 9 8 6 6 7
9 Prince Fielder DET 1B 9 10 11 8 24 11 7 5 14 10
10 Carlos Gonzalez COL OF 17 8 8 10 5 7 11 26 9 9
11 Justin Verlander DET SP 11 13 14 12 4 20 21 9 13 11
12 Giancarlo Stanton MIA OF 13 15 10 11 44 13 9 18 10 14
13 Jose Bautista TOR OF 12 20 15 13 30 12 18 10 16 16
14 Troy Tulowitzki COL SS 10 11 13 20 25 10 22 25 20 15
15 Clayton Kershaw LAD SP 15 14 18 14 14 22 40 11 11 13
16 Buster Posey SF C/1B 16 16 12 17 8 26 30 7 21 20
17 Adrian Beltre TEX 3B 25 18 16 22 21 18 16 28 17 17
18 Justin Upton ATL OF 26 12 19 15 20 14 10 55 19 23
19 Josh Hamilton LAA OF 14 19 17 16 64 16 15 15 22 21
20 Stephen Strasburg WAS SP 32 24 22 19 15 25 25 19 33 12
21 Evan Longoria TB 3B 20 21 24 25 41 33 12 16 25 19
22 David Price TB SP 23 25 30 21 19 31 33 20 32 24
23 Jose Reyes TOR SS 22 29 29 31 11 23 23 48 12 30
24 Ian Kinsler TEX 2B 19 27 27 30 27 29 17 32 27 26
25 Dustin Pedroia BOS 2B 18 26 23 28 28 24 24 40 29 25
26 David Wright NYM 3B 31 17 20 18 52 17 28 60 23 22
27 Felix Hernandez SEA SP 21 22 26 26 40 34 41 34 31 18
28 Hanley Ramirez LAD 3B/SS 29 23 21 24 45 21 30 64 18 28
29 Jason Heyward ATL OF 37 28 25 23 31 15 36 68 15 27
30 Adam Jones BAL OF 36 34 40 32 43 28 13 22 38 34
31 Edwin Encarnacion TOR 1B 24 31 28 29 61 37 27 14 42 29
32 Cole Hamels PHI SP 30 33 38 38 9 39 45 31 37 31
33 Matt Cain SF SP 44 30 33 34 17 35 48 23 59 32
34 Cliff Lee PHI SP 46 32 31 43 16 41 55 27 46 33
35 Matt Holliday STL OF 27 46 41 36 36 42 29 47 36 40
36 Bryce Harper WAS OF 52 37 44 33 94 19 37 21 26 35
37 Jay Bruce CIN OF 51 36 43 41 42 51 34 38 30 37
38 Adrian Gonzalez LAD 1B/OF 33 41 58 27 49 43 20 70 28 43
39 Jered Weaver LAA SP 34 39 34 42 12 54 79 29 52 38
40 Starlin Castro CHC SS 68 35 32 37 48 32 32 80 24 41
41 Billy Butler KC 1B 45 38 35 46 56 56 58 17 39 42
42 Ryan Zimmerman WAS 3B 28 51 36 45 71 27 26 104 34 44
43 Yoenis Cespedes OAK OF 53 52 47 44 29 36 51 63 43 49
44 Jacoby Ellsbury BOS OF 38 45 46 35 75 30 50 66 49 36
45 Craig Kimbrel ATL RP 56 43 39 63 33 50 53 33 64 55
46 Ben Zobrist TB 2B/SS/OF 39 54 53 62 65 63 39 30 47 69
47 Gio Gonzalez WAS SP 50 49 63 53 46 45 54 36 73 53
48 Joe Mauer MIN C/1B 40 65 45 40 18 80 92 49 41 68
49 Brandon Phillips CIN 2B 77 42 65 64 50 38 38 57 45 65
50 B.J. Upton ATL OF 69 47 50 49 66 48 46 69 48 51
51 CC Sabathia NYY SP 47 60 76 47 23 58 81 52 57 48
52 R.A. Dickey TOR SP 42 59 75 50 62 40 83 24 69 50
53 Zack Greinke LAD SP 49 40 48 55 69 44 42 116 63 39
54 Madison Bumgarner SF SP 43 53 56 51 51 68 52 61 85 45
55 Paul Goldschmidt ARI 1B 86 72 55 48 76 47 19 91 35 46
56 Chase Headley SD 3B 35 44 49 60 80 60 44 96 56 62
57 Aramis Ramirez MIL 3B 62 70 42 52 63 75 66 46 40 80
58 Adam Wainwright STL SP 70 50 64 65 39 76 57 75 76 47
59 Carlos Santana CLE C/1B 48 76 62 72 35 66 61 45 94 77
60 Allen Craig STL 1B/OF 41 63 52 54 93 82 60 83 62 52
61 Chris Sale CHW SP 55 66 73 67 73 55 82 54 91 58
62 Johnny Cueto CIN SP 63 67 79 75 32 64 96 65 77 61
63 Matt Wieters BAL C 80 56 54 76 47 70 91 51 70 87
64 Yadier Molina STL C 66 48 60 58 37 52 178 39 84 76
65 Jason Kipnis CLE 2B 85 61 37 57 90 84 118 50 61 57
66 Yu Darvish TEX SP 54 55 66 61 68 53 85 108 97 54
67 Ian Desmond WAS 2B/SS 78 64 104 59 58 46 62 105 59 66
68 Freddie Freeman ATL 1B 87 90 67 69 72 93 77 35 50 71
69 Mat Latos CIN SP 64 69 82 87 34 57 64 84 115 60
70 Aaron Hill ARI 2B 72 73 71 90 53 85 69 71 71 67
71 Roy Halladay PHI SP 59 75 88 81 60 79 97 67 78 56
72 Michael Bourn CLE OF 89 58 70 68 55 49 124 92 54 81
73 Jimmy Rollins PHI SS 67 77 95 78 78 94 47 59 72 75
74 Pablo Sandoval SF 3B 74 80 78 79 145 61 43 95 44 63
75 Brett Lawrie TOR 3B 101 57 51 66 160 81 67 73 58 59
76 Shin-Soo Choo CIN OF 58 78 69 80 77 73 35 165 55 86
77 Alex Rios CHW OF 76 74 68 70 83 86 74 97 87 74
78 James Shields KC SP 57 88 94 82 38 59 84 94 105 91
79 Elvis Andrus TEX SS 91 93 100 71 121 100 70 53 51 64
80 Desmond Jennings TB OF 92 68 59 73 100 89 49 127 95 73
81 Jose Altuve HOU 2B 88 86 85 86 81 78 107 44 82 96
82 Jordan Zimmerman WAS SP 83 71 84 92 57 95 63 102 106 85
83 Jonathan Papelbon PHI RP 82 79 77 106 70 69 80 90 93 92
84 Austin Jackson DET OF 94 62 74 74 82 72 71 136 88 89
85 Kris Medlen ATL SP/RP 60 84 90 93 122 67 87 41 146 82
86 Alex Gordon KC OF 75 83 72 83 59 133 72 161 53 90
87 Max Scherzer DET SP 65 92 89 84 162 62 56 114 96 83
88 Jason Motte STL RP 104 82 83 120 67 71 93 89 110 97
89 Asdrubal Cabrera CLE SS 84 98 102 88 116 77 106 107 66 93
90 Martin Prado ARI 2/3/SS/OF 93 91 81 99 114 98 122 77 67 107
91 Aroldis Chapman CIN RP 61 81 86 103 194 96 68 62 130 78
92 Yovani Gallardo MIL SP 71 89 96 89 98 90 86 140 141 84
93 David Ortiz BOS 1B 81 107 103 77 96 97 103 126 143 70
94 Ike Davis NYM 1B 119 95 80 98 112 156 59 81 99 106
95 Victor Martinez DET C 129 87 91 104 95 91 116 138 80 88
96 Carlos Beltran STL OF 109 132 108 95 163 113 76 58 74 94
97 Mike Napoli BOS C/1B 134 156 87 102 22 87 170 43 89 138
98 Matt Moore TB SP 122 85 97 96 86 101 65 185 116 79
99 Curtis Granderson NYY OF 98 104 57 39 152 65 113 191 122 99
100 Melky Cabrera TOR OF 97 97 105 117 99 108 - 79 68 111
101 Hunter Pence HOU OF 117 127 119 123 87 102 73 131 81 124
102 Rickie Weeks MIL 2B 73 150 118 94 91 109 117 137 79 119
103 Anthony Rizzo CHC 1B 120 109 99 111 168 - 90 37 98 72
104 Eric Hosmer KC 1B 181 105 111 101 125 132 101 56 92 104
105 Paul Konerko CHW 1B 128 139 93 97 127 121 151 42 109 103
106 Josh Willingham MIN OF 110 113 109 107 144 117 112 88 86 126
107 Shane Victorino BOS OF 100 116 101 116 74 - 114 87 119 105
108 Mark Trumbo LAA 1B/3B/OF 135 111 107 85 193 129 78 111 90 134
109 Brandon Morrow TOR SP 99 100 116 118 108 124 111 119 189 101
110 Mariano Rivera NYY RP 113 101 98 155 119 125 94 101 171 123
111 Nelson Cruz TEX OF 131 136 124 119 85 118 75 183 131 100
112 Doug Fister DET SP 105 99 121 127 109 104 168 74 175 120
113 Ian Kennedy ARI SP 106 103 127 105 89 88 141 144 200 102
114 Miguel Montero ARI C 79 175 114 91 102 74 177 180 108 113
115 Fernando Rodney TB RP 108 96 125 151 84 92 198 98 135 127
116 Joe Nathan TEX RP 114 110 120 159 106 111 131 93 142 132
117 Chase Utley PHI 2B 107 158 113 124 123 141 120 146 75 130
118 Wilin Rosario COL C 103 184 143 100 92 83 137 135 166 95
119 Rafael Soriano WAS RP 136 94 92 136 134 103 133 149 133 131
120 Jeff Samardzjia CHC SP 112 144 167 133 128 115 99 141 132 110
121 Jake Peavy CHW SP 90 119 139 137 133 99 88 - 199 108
122 Josh Johnson TOR SP 96 114 137 122 169 139 162 113 162 116
123 Hiroki Kuroda NYY SP 140 117 155 130 118 105 167 109 181 122
124 Salvador Perez KC C 132 - 134 126 105 107 108 - 104 129
125 Adam LaRoche WAS 1B 153 151 115 112 178 153 163 112 103 140
126 Sergio Romo SF RP 147 145 133 180 104 126 132 72 194 151
127 Andre Ethier LAD OF 115 153 129 140 - 120 126 134 124 152
128 Dan Haren WAS SP 160 108 123 128 138 131 166 182 150 109
129 Ryan Howard PHI 1B 124 147 130 114 195 - 104 145 147 98
130 Nick Markakis BAL OF 111 - 148 182 97 - 127 86 120 135
131 Jesus Montero SEA C 146 - 159 148 54 - 138 103 129 142
132 David Freese STL 3B 127 126 110 109 - - 161 - 83 112
133 Norichika Aoki MIL OF 158 - 131 153 132 154 129 110 126 150
134 Neil Walker PIT 2B - 123 141 115 88 151 181 151 125 168
135 Mark Teixeira NYY 1B 137 128 61 56 - - - - 65 199
136 Derek Jeter NYY SS 126 186 126 139 - 106 156 172 102 141
137 Tim Lincecum SF SP 116 118 142 121 146 - 145 - 153 114
138 C.J. Wilson LAA SP 102 152 178 145 79 147 - 152 180 133
139 Jon Lester BOS SP 95 138 165 141 - 176 98 - 139 118
140 Will Middlebrooks BOS 3B 168 188 172 108 - 137 153 82 112 154
141 Angel Pagan SF OF 163 115 140 132 111 110 - - 167 145
142 Danny Espinosa WAS 2B/SS 171 135 122 110 - 148 89 - 148 160
143 Brett Anderson OAK SP 143 140 138 152 107 191 193 129 140 153
144 Carlos Gomez MIL OF 139 102 106 125 - 144 191 - 163 117
145 J.J. Putz ARI RP 155 106 117 171 110 193 - 100 - 137
146 Jim Johnson BAL RP 148 130 145 156 115 146 200 123 188 146
147 Erick Aybar LAA SS 178 122 166 143 153 119 155 148 137 176
148 Alcides Escobar KC SS 172 142 190 150 189 112 158 117 100 180
149 Chris Davis BAL 1B/OF 193 168 136 144 164 142 95 143 179 157
150 Huston Street SD RP 170 154 161 175 131 169 136 118 152 158
151 Alejandro de Aza CHW OF - 129 132 142 171 122 - 120 169 139
152 Carl Crawford LAD OF 156 141 116 113 - 155 146 - 183 115
153 Anibal Sanchez DET SP 144 120 151 184 - 138 164 156 157 144
154 Michael Morse SEA OF 118 160 149 135 172 - 149 - 113 170
155 Kyle Seager SEA 2B/3B 165 165 146 169 - 161 119 106 155 181
156 Pedro Alvarez PIT 3B 173 157 154 138 - 128 159 186 127 147
157 Nick Swisher CLE 1B/OF 138 195 135 174 - 127 185 160 117 149
158 Jonathan Lucroy MIL C 133 - 182 129 103 180 176 157 159 169
159 Greg Holland KC RP 179 146 147 194 101 177 135 147 - 164
160 Howie Kendrick LAA 2B - 133 158 149 158 136 157 - 134 178
161 Torii Hunter DET OF - 124 197 162 170 130 125 - 101 194
162 Ben Revere PHI OF 157 137 150 147 - 116 - 169 186 143
163 Josh Reddick OAK OF 174 181 157 179 - 189 128 76 136 186
164 Mike Minor ATL SP 123 179 179 158 157 123 142 - - 163
165 Jonathon Niese NYM SP 121 121 163 165 176 - 110 - - 167
166 Mike Moustakas KC 3B 177 148 160 146 - - 152 - 114 136
167 Lance Lynn STL SP/RP 130 134 156 131 - 163 171 197 - 156
168 Josh Rutledge COL 2B/SS 145 - 187 170 - 166 100 115 178 183
169 Dan Uggla ATL 2B 149 170 174 160 - - 121 - 156 125
170 Matt Harvey NYM SP 142 163 169 167 - - - 78 - 148
171 Brett Gardner NYY OF - 131 194 134 151 194 147 153 198 171
172 Michael Cuddyer COL 1B/OF - - - 168 - 114 150 124 164 162
173 John Axford MIL RP 198 125 128 190 165 172 175 162 182 190
174 Ichiro Suzuki NYY OF 176 193 189 161 139 171 123 179 195 165
175 Jarrod Parker OAK SP 150 159 152 154 - - 140 - 187 161
176 Tom Wilhelmsen SEA RP 154 - - - 136 167 134 139 - 175
177 Homer Bailey CIN SP 182 161 175 - 124 135 139 - - 192
178 Dexter Fowler COL OF 159 177 191 157 - - 130 - 111 184
179 Kendrys Morales SEA 1B - 190 153 198 149 - 105 - 149 173
180 Joel Hanrahan BOS RP 164 112 144 178 - 170 - 178 - 174
181 Todd Frazier CIN 1B/3B/OF 196 173 164 181 - 152 102 - 168 -
182 Grant Balfour OAK RP - 172 177 - 117 140 - 133 - 198
183 Jayson Werth WAS OF 175 - - 192 135 160 192 - 107 -
184 Matt Garza CHI SP 194 - 181 163 181 198 165 193 170 121
185 Adam Dunn CHW 1B 190 - - 172 - 145 184 174 145 155
186 A.J. Burnett PIT SP 141 200 - - - 150 143 - 160 185
187 Coco Crisp OAK OF - 180 - 164 - - - 122 154 159
188 Brian McCann ATL C 125 - 168 186 - - 180 - - 128
189 Alexi Ogando TEX SP - 194 - - 129 186 - 85 - -
190 Rafael Betancourt COL RP - 166 176 - 154 192 - 130 - 179
191 Manny Machado BAL 3B 197 178 171 183 - - 154 - 121 -
192 Wade Miley ARI SP 169 149 170 189 - 190 172 166 - -
193 Marco Estrada MIL SP/RP 161 - - 200 196 157 - 125 - 166
194 Justin Morneau MIN 1B 151 - - - 143 199 188 - 128 197
195 Corey Hart MIL 1B/OF 152 199 - 58 - - - - - -
196 Tim Hudson ATL SP 195 167 180 176 - 143 - 158 - 200
197 Jeremy Hellickson TB SP - 164 173 195 126 - - 177 184 -
198 Alexei Ramirez CHW SS - 191 162 185 197 - - 168 123 -
199 Chris Perez CLE RP - 192 183 173 148 173 - - 191 196
200 Ryan Doumit MIN C/OF 188 - - 177 137 158 - - - -

Note: Positional eligibility is accoring to Yahoo! leagues.

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<p> 2013 Fantasy Baseball Consensus Big Board</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/florida-gators-2013-spring-football-preview

Florida lived on the edge like few teams last season. No matter the opponent -- from Bowling Green and Louisiana-Lafayette to Texas A&M and LSU, the Gators made Saturdays interesting. In Will Muschamp’s third season, the coach will take the record (11-2) but maybe not the stress of games that shouldn’t be as close as they were.

Spring opens with plenty of questions, though. Jeff Driskel was a liability at times at quarterback last season, but he’s the focal point this season. On defense, many of the top playmakers are gone, opening doors for talented youth to make a move.

Florida Gators 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 11-2 (7-1)

Spring practice dates: March 13-April 6

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 4

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Jeff Driskel, 156 of 245, 1,646, 12 TDs, 5 INTs
Rushing: Driskel, 118 car., 413 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Quinton Dunbar, 36 rec., 383 yds., 4 TDs
Tackles: Loucheiz Purifoy, 51
Sacks: Dominique Easley, 4
Interceptions: Jaylen Watkins, 3

Redshirts to watch: S Marcus Maye, QB Skyler Mornhinweg, TE Colin Thompson, DT Quinteze Williams

Early Enrollees to watch: LB Alex Anzalone, DL Joe Ivie, LB Daniel McMillian, OL Tyler Moore, WR Demarcus Robinson

JUCO Transfer to Watch: DT Darious Cummings

2013 Schedule
Aug. 31: Toledo
Sept. 7: at Miami
Sept. 21: Tennessee
Sept. 28: at Kentucky
Oct. 5: Arkansas
Oct. 12: at LSU
Oct. 19: at Missouri
Nov. 2: Georgia (Jacksonville)
Nov. 9: Vanderbilt
Nov. 16: at South Carolina
Nov. 23: Georgia Southern
Nov. 30: Florida State

Offensive Strength: The offense as a whole is in transition with new faces on the offensive line and questions at running back and wide receiver. That leaves quarterback, or at least Jeff Driskel’s returning experience, as a strength. Driskel threw all but 43 of the Gators’ pass attempts last season.

Offensive Weakness: The Gators averaged an un-Florida-like 5.3 yards per play last season. Only Missouri and Kentucky averaged fewer in the SEC last season. The Gators will focus on a power run game under Will Muschamp and coordinator Brent Pease, but Florida will need to find playmakers with running back and Mike Gillislee and tight end Jordan Reed gone.

Defensive Strength: Florida is overflowing with numbers at cornerback, which is allowing Muschamp to tinker with moving players around. Loucheiz Purifoy will see time on offense while Cody Riggs and Jaylen Watkins may play safety.

Defensive Weakness: As usual, the Gators have plenty of talented players on defense, but there’s a question of who will become the big-play leader. Matt Elam led the team in interceptions (four) and was second in tackles for a loss (11), but he’s gone. Empty spots in the front seven mean Florida is also looking for a pass rusher to emerge.

Spring Storylines Facing the Gators

1. Can Jeff Driskel emerge? Driskel won’t be competing for his job after starting all but two games last season. Now, it’s time to see what he can do with a full spring as the No. 1 quarterback. He has a strong arm and he can scramble, but he needs to be able to make more plays downfield and avoid sacks. Two huge safety nets in Gillislee and Reed are gone, so Driskel needs to emerge as a playmaker in his own right.

2. Finding offensive playmakers. Where would Florida have been without the steady, grinding run game of Gillislee? That’s not a question the Gators hope to answer. The Gators used to have a steady stream of offensive playmakers, but there’s been a drought of reliable big play receivers. This spring, cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy is working out at the position, and early-enrolling freshman Demarcus Robinson could make an impact. At running back, the race is on to replace Gillislee. Matt Jones came on late last season, including eight carries for 81 yards and a touchdown against Florida State. He’s one of three scholarship tailbacks in spring camp.

3. A new offensive line look. Three starters are back on the offensive line, including center Jon Harrison, right guard Jon Halapio and right tackle Chaz Green. Sophomore D.J. Humphries could take over at left tackle and may have a bright future there. Maryland transfer Max Garcia is a projected starter at left guard while Nebraska transfer Tyler Moore could press Green for playing time.

4. Changing of the guard in the front seven. The Gators will have a ton of turnover in the front seven with linemen Sharrif Floyd and Omar Hunter and all three starting linebackers gone. Linemen Dante Fowler Jr. and Jonathan Bullard are looking to build on positive freshman seasons. Ronald Powell, a former No. 1 prospect, is looking to make a return from a torn ACL. With defensive tackle Darious Cummings arriving from junior college, Florida will have candidates at line. The Gators will need help at linebacker, though.

5. Filling both safety spots. Where Florida is stocked at cornerback, the Gators have questions at safety. Matt Elam was Florida’s top defensive player last season. He left big shoes to fill. Josh Evans, who started the last two seasons, are also gone. Hopes are high for Marcus Maye to take over for Elam, but he’s a redshirt freshman.

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<p> Florida Gators 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: 2013 March Madness, College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/2012-13-college-basketball-all-name-team

Anthlon Bell is so close. The freshman guard from Arkansas is just one letter off from being the all-time captain of the Athlon Sports College Basketball All-Name Team. We’ll list him here anyway for the top basketball names for the 2012-13 season. Some you’ll recognize. Some will show up in your bracket. Some are buried on a roster in at one of nearly 350 Division I schools.

Here are the highlights of the 2012-13 All-Name Team

Athlon Sports wants to honor all-around contributes to the All-Name team. Not only do these players have outstanding names, they’re outstanding players. Their performance on the court makes them household All-Names, in essence.

Nnanna Egwu, Illinois
The sophomore with four Ns in his first name is a starter for Illinois, averaging 6.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.

Majok Majok, Ball State
The Sudanese-born forward gets bonus points for nearly averaging a double-double (10.7 points, 9.9 rebounds) to go with his double name.

Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado
Giggle at the name, if you must. Pac-12 fans learned not to as Dinwiddie averages 15.4 points per game.

Cleanthony Early, Wichita State
The junior college transfer was an instant boost for the Shockers, averaging 13.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. 

Vander Blue, Marquette
One of two Vanders playing this season (see: Vander Joaquin at Hawaii), Vander Blue emerged from a big recruit to a star junior at 14.4 points per game.

Cleveland Melvin, DePaul
Hello, Cleveland. A fantastic player who has averaged 16.1 points and 6.5 rebounds won’t play in the postseason at lowly DePaul.

Some teams have so many great names, we can’t highlight just one or two. Here are starting fives of unique names at six schools.

God’sgift Achiuwa
Felix Balamou
Marc-Antoine Bourgalt
Sir’Dominic Pointer
JaKarr Sampson

Alex Eppensteiner
Ge’Lawn Guyn
Cheikh Mbodj
David Nyarsuk
Titus Rubles

O’Karo Akamune
Teeng Akol
Kene Anyigbo
Percy Blade
Aleksejs Rostov

Jared Drew (ed. note: Not related to Bryce, Scott or Homer, but name and hometown in Indianapolis makes it seem that way on paper.)
Grandy Glaze
Rob Loe
Austin McBroom
Jordair Jett

Hauns Brerton
Manroop Clair
Dyrbe Enos
Davis Rozitis
Christian Standhardinger

Antonio Biglow
Jeff Budinich
Flavien Davis
Paul Egwuonwu
Christian Moon

Ya Ya Anderson, Radford
Bak Bak, Cal
Leek Leek, Campbell
Shayok Shayok, Bradley
Deng Deng, Long Beach State

Mo Alie-Cox, VCU
McWisdom Badejo, Florida A&M
Marcellus Barksdale, IUPUI
Staats Battle, NC State
Beau Beech, North Florida
Deuce Bello, Baylor
Alex Biggerstaff, UNC Asheville
Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson
Jayson Cheesman, Southern Utah
Rob Chubb, Auburn
Bobby Capobianco, Valparaiso
BaeBae Daniels, North Florida
Indiana Faithfull, Wofford
Grandy Glaze, Saint Louis
Dusty Hannahs, Texas Tech
Keegan Hornbuckle, UCSB
Charlon Kloof, St. Bonaventure
Gregoryhson Magee, South Alabama
Gee McGhee, Chattanooga
Four McGlynn, Towson
Ferg Myrick, New Hampshire
Johnny O’Bryant III, LSU
Onochie Oche, Southeastern Louisiana
Peter Pappageorge, Long Beach State
Bubu Palo, Iowa State
Dalton Pepper, Temple
Chad Posthumus, Morehead State
Dakota Slaughter, Alabama
Hippolyte Tsafack, Memphis
Drake U’u, Cal Poly
Parker U’u, Hartford
Daddy Ugbede, Drake
Hooper Vint, UTEP

And finally
De’End Parker, San Francisco

<p> 2012-13 College Basketball All-Name Team</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - 07:50
Path: /college-football/big-12-football-2013-schedule-analysis

The start of the 2013 college football season is still months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about preseason predictions and some of the top games to watch in each conference.

Since the Big 12 has yet to expand back to 12 teams, each program has an unbalanced home or away slate in the conference schedule. While it’s not a huge deal, playing five home conference games could be the difference for a team that’s trying to get bowl eligible. And with no clear favorite for 2013, the schedules could play an even bigger role in helping to determine which teams emerge near the top.

Oklahoma State and Texas have two of the Big 12’s best schedules, while West Virginia catches an unfortunate break with a road trip to Oklahoma in Week 2. Athlon details some of the early trends and games to watch with its Big 12 schedule analysis for 2013.  

Big 12 Schedule Analysis for 2013


Aug. 31 Wofford
Sept. 7 Buffalo
Sept. 14 Bye Week
Sept. 21 UL Monroe
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 West Virginia
Oct. 12 at Kansas State
Oct. 19 Iowa State
Oct. 26 at Kansas
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 7 Oklahoma
Nov. 16 Texas Tech (Arlington)
Nov. 23 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 30 at TCU
Dec. 7 Texas

Related Content: 2013 Baylor Spring Preview

* With Baylor set to move into a new facility in 2014, home games against Oklahoma and Texas is quite a curtain call for Floyd Casey Stadium. The Bears have four conference home games, with one neutral site affair against Texas Tech.

* Even though ULM gave Baylor all it could handle last season, the Bears should head into Big 12 play with a 3-0 mark. Playing Wofford, Buffalo and ULM should allow Baylor a chance to get new starting quarterback Bryce Petty comfortable with the supporting cast.

* For the second consecutive season, Baylor will open Big 12 play against West Virginia. Last season, these two teams combined to score 133 points in a 70-63 Mountaineers’ victory.

* Baylor and Kansas State have played only 10 times, but the Bears are 0-7 in Manhattan.

* After losing 15 consecutive games against Texas Tech from 1996-2010, the Bears have won back-to-back games against the Red Raiders. The last four games in this series have been played at a neutral site, and the 2013 matchup will take place in Arlington, Texas.

* It doesn’t quite rival back-to-back trips to Alabama and Texas A&M or Alabama and LSU, but Baylor’s late-November stretch against Oklahoma State and TCU might be one of the toughest in the nation. The Cowboys and Horned Frogs are the two early frontrunners to win the Big 12 in 2013.

* Considering how difficult conference play is, Baylor catches a bad break in scheduling with two bye weeks in September. The Bears will play five consecutive opponents without a break in November, including likely top-25 teams in Oklahoma, Texas, TCU and Oklahoma State.

* And with a difficult late-season schedule in mind, if the Bears want to go bowling in 2013, it could depend on getting to six wins before November. Outside of a road trip to Kansas State, Baylor is likely to be favored in six out of the first seven games.

Iowa State

Aug. 31 Northern Iowa
Sept. 7 Bye Week
Sept. 14 Iowa
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 26 at Tulsa (Thur.)
Oct. 5 Texas
Oct. 12 at Texas Tech
Oct. 19 at Baylor
Oct. 26 Oklahoma State
Nov. 2 at Kansas State
Nov. 9 TCU
Nov. 16 at Oklahoma
Nov. 23 Kansas
Nov. 30 at West Virginia
Dec. 7 Bye Week

* Iowa State may struggle to find rhythm early in the season as two bye weeks will fall in the first four weeks. Additionally, the Cyclones won’t leave the state, or play anyone from out of Iowa, until a trip to Tulsa on a Thursday night.

* Beginning with Tulsa, Paul Rhoads bunch will play four out of six games on the road. Trips to outposts like Lubbock, Manhattan and Waco will not be easy considering the two homes games during that stretch will be against conference frontrunners Texas and Oklahoma State.

* Following the second bye week in Week 4, the Cyclones will play 10 straight weekends. The only good news is ISU will get an extra few days to prepare for Texas following a Thursday night game with Tulsa.

* Finishing up with Kansas and West Virginia isn’t all that difficult. A trip to a third straight bowl game — and fourth in five seasons — could hang in the balance in the season finale against the Mountaineers in Morgantown.

* ISU will play five Big 12 road games and four conference home games in 2012. The third bye week is wasted in the final weekend of the regular season. 


Aug. 31 Bye Week
Sept. 7 South Dakota
Sept. 14 at Rice
Sept. 21 Louisiana Tech
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 Texas Tech
Oct. 12 at TCU
Oct. 19 Oklahoma
Oct. 26 Baylor
Nov. 2 at Texas
Nov. 9 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 16 West Virginia
Nov. 23 at Iowa State
Nov. 30 Kansas State
Dec. 7 Bye Week

* After back-to-back seasons with no wins in Big 12 play, Kansas starts 2013 with the worst possible opponent: Bye Week. Even though the extra time will give coach Charlie Weis an opportunity to prepare for the upcoming non-conference slate, there’s only so much scouting a team can do by playing itself.

* Kansas enters 2013 riding an 11-game losing streak, but the Jayhawks should have no trouble starting 1-0 with South Dakota (1-10 in 2012) coming to Lawrence.

* Even though it’s not a gauntlet of schedules, the Jayhawks need to win at Rice and beat Louisiana Tech in non-conference play. If Kansas can sweep its first three games, it should allow the Jayhawks to build some momentum for conference play. And a 3-0 start would also help bolster Charlie Weis’ efforts on the recruiting trail.

* With TCU, Oklahoma, Baylor and Oklahoma State in the first portion of Big 12 play, Kansas will have a hard time finding a victory in conference action until late November. The Jayhawks play West Virginia, Iowa State and Kansas State in November, which seem to be the most likely opportunities for a Big 12 victory in 2013.

* Kansas and Texas have met 12 times, but the Jayhawks have never won in Austin. And making matters worse for the Jayhawks is none of the matchups at Texas have been decided by 10 points or less.

* With Kansas unlikely to make a bowl game in 2013, this team has a chance to play spoiler late in the season against rival Kansas State. The Jayhawks have lost four consecutive matchups to the Wildcats, with the last three games decided by a whopping 38 points or more. 

Kansas State

Aug. 30 North Dakota State (Fri.)
Sept. 7 Louisiana-Lafayette
Sept. 14 UMass
Sept. 21 at Texas
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 at Oklahoma State
Oct. 12 Baylor
Oct. 19 Bye Week
Oct. 26 West Virginia
Nov. 2 Iowa State
Nov. 9 at Texas Tech
Nov. 16 TCU
Nov. 23 Oklahoma
Nov. 30 at Kansas
Dec. 7 Bye Week

* Kansas State opens the 2013 season with a dangerous FCS opponent. North Dakota State has won back-to-back FCS titles and has 28 victories in the last two seasons. With the Wildcats breaking in a new quarterback and a handful of starters on defense, NDSU could pull off the upset in Manhattan.

* And the Wildcats don’t catch a break in Week 2 with Louisiana-Lafayette coming to Manhattan. The Ragin’ Cajuns will be picked near the top of the Sun Belt in 2013 and have a potent offense, led by quarterback Terrance Broadway. Could K-State start 0-2? It’s certainty a possibility.

* Kansas State opens Big 12 play on Sept. 21 with a home date against Texas. The Wildcats have won five consecutive games over the Longhorns, including the last two matchups in Austin.

* The Wildcats have not won at Oklahoma State since 1999. Kansas State is also just 2-4 in its last six matchups against the Cowboys.

* Kansas State’s Big 12 title hopes could be decided in mid-November, as the Wildcats host TCU and Oklahoma in back-to-back games. The Wildcats beat both opponents on the road last season and the timing of these two matchups are crucial, especially as Kansas State will have plenty of time to fill the voids left behind by its departing seniors on defense and settle on a quarterback.

* Can Kansas State continue its dominance over in-state rival Kansas? The Wildcats have won four consecutive games over the Jayhawks and have scored at least 56 points in each of the last three meetings. Additionally, Kansas State has won the last three games against Kansas by at least 30 points. 


Aug. 31 ULM
Sept. 7 West Virginia
Sept. 14 Tulsa
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 at Notre Dame
Oct. 5 TCU
Oct. 12 Texas (Dallas)
Oct. 19 at Kansas
Oct. 26 Texas Tech
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 7 at Baylor (Thur.)
Nov. 16 Iowa State
Nov. 23 at Kansas State
Nov. 30 Bye Week
Dec. 7 at Oklahoma State

Related Content: 2013 Oklahoma Sooners Spring Preview

* Oklahoma gets three straight home games to start the 2013 season. The Sooners should start 3-0, but all three matchups provide interesting tests for a rebuilt defense — one that struggled mightily to stop opponents last year. Having to face Dana Holgerson in Week 2 in Big 12 play could be tricky.

* The first off weekend of the year comes at a perfect time before a road trip to Notre Dame. Seeking revenge from last year’s defeat, Oklahoma needs to play well in South Bend because the trip North begins one of the nastiest and most important three-week stretches in the Big 12. Bob Stoops’ team will face TCU at home and Texas in the Cotton Bowl immediately following the battle with the Irish. This portion of the schedule will determine if OU is a national contender or not.

* Should Oklahoma begin 6-0, watch out. The next four games will be against Kansas, Texas Tech, Baylor and Iowa State with a bye week directly in the middle. Oklahoma should be heavy favorites in all four games and could easily push the Sooners to 10-0.

* The final three weeks of the season will be bittersweet for OU faithful. The season ends with road trips to Kansas State and Oklahoma State in the Bedlam Series. The Wildcats are replacing a lot on defense and under center but will only get better as the season progresses. And the season finale with the rival Cowboys on the road could carry with it a trip to a BCS bowl game. The good news is Stoops’ team gets a bye week between the two nasty road trips.

Oklahoma State

Aug. 31 Mississippi State (Houston)
Sept. 7 at UTSA
Sept. 14 Lamar
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 at West Virginia
Oct. 5 Kansas State
Oct. 12 Bye Week
Oct. 19 TCU
Oct. 26 at Iowa State
Nov. 2 at Texas Tech
Nov. 9 Kansas
Nov. 16 at Texas
Nov. 23 Baylor
Nov. 30 Bye Week
Dec. 7 Oklahoma

Related Content: 2013 Oklahoma State Spring Preview

* Oklahoma State and Mississippi State will meet for the first time since 1999 with a neutral site affair in Houston. These two teams have split their four previous meetings, with Mississippi State winning the last matchup 29-11 in Starkville in 1999. The last time Oklahoma State played a SEC team in a non-conference matchup was Sept. 5, 2009 against Georgia.

* With the first two games of the season in Texas, Oklahoma State has a good opportunity to showcase the program in two valuable recruiting markets – Houston and San Antonio.

* The Cowboys have one of the Big 12’s best conference schedules, starting with the opener against West Virginia. With the Mountaineers rebuilding on offense and defense, Oklahoma State should have no trouble winning in Morgantown. The Cowboys have not played at West Virginia since 1928.

* Could the Oct. 19 matchup between Oklahoma State and TCU decide the Big 12 title? Considering both teams are predicted by most to finish in the top four of the Big 12 standings, this game is a huge opportunity for one team to take an early edge in the title race.

* Due to conference realignment, the 2013 meeting between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will be the third matchup in four years in Stillwater. The Sooners own a 3-1 series edge in that span, but the Cowboys won 44-10 in 2011 and nearly won in Norman last season. With a potential conference title on the line this year, the Bedlam Series should have plenty of intrigue when Oklahoma and Oklahoma State kick off on Dec. 7.

* Oklahoma State’s bye weeks seem to come at the right time in 2013. After playing their first two conference games, the Cowboys will have a bye week on Oct. 12 and an off date on Nov. 30 before playing Oklahoma.

* Three out of Oklahoma State’s last four games are at home.


Aug. 31 LSU
Sept. 7 Southeastern Louisiana
Sept. 12 at Texas Tech (Thur.)
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 SMU
Oct. 5 at Oklahoma
Oct. 12 Kansas
Oct. 19 at Oklahoma State
Oct. 26 Texas
Nov. 2 West Virginia
Nov. 9 at Iowa State
Nov. 16 at Kansas State
Nov. 23 Bye Week
Nov. 30 Baylor
Dec. 7 Bye Week

Related Content: 2013 TCU Horned Frogs Spring Preview

* TCU could be in for a special season in Fort Worth, but the opening weekend could be a bloodbath. The Frogs have an excellent front seven on defense but will be put to the test physically by LSU’s powerful running game.

* Things get much easier for a month following the semi-home, semi-road trip to Cowboys Stadium. A Thursday night road trip to Lubbock will be tricky but it will give TCU 16 days off before The Battle for the Iron Skillet with SMU. A 3-1 record would be a quality start for the Frogs, because…

* Things will get very interesting in Week 5 when TCU heads north to Oklahoma. A win for TCU puts this team on the map nationally, while a Sooners victory puts them securely in the Big 12 driver’s seat.

* A breather against Kansas at home, ideally, will prepare TCU for a nasty five-game stretch as the calendar changes from October to November. Road trips to Stillwater, Ames and Manhattan sandwich a pair of key home games with Texas and West Virginia. This is as tough a stretch as there will be in the Big 12 in 2013.

* Gary Patterson’s group was unlucky in that two of its three off weekends come in the final three weeks, including the wasted Dec. 7 bye week. If the season finale home game against Baylor carries Big 12 title implications (which is easily could) then at least the first bye will help tremendously.

* TCU will play five Big 12 road games, including three of the top four conference contenders (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State). Trips to Ames and Lubbock are no joke either. 


Aug. 31 New Mexico State
Sept. 7 at BYU
Sept. 14 Ole Miss
Sept. 21 Kansas State
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 3 at Iowa State (Thur.)
Oct. 12 Oklahoma (Dallas)
Oct. 19 Bye Week
Oct. 26 at TCU
Nov. 2 Kansas
Nov. 9 at West Virginia
Nov. 16 Oklahoma State
Nov. 23 Bye Week
Nov. 28 Texas Tech (Thur.)
Dec. 7 at Baylor

Related Content: 2013 Texas Longhorns Spring Preview

* A critical 2013 season will get underway for Mack Brown with some seriously intriguing non-conference tilts. A road trip to BYU in Week 2 will test David Ash and the struggling Longhorns offense. The following week, a visit from a red-hot Ole Miss program will test Manny Diaz’ reeling rushing defense. To top off a very interesting first month, arch-nemesis Bill Snyder and Kansas State comes to town in Week 4.

* Fans in Austin may know all they need to about the future of Brown as head coach entering the bye week in Week 5. This team could easily be teetering at 2-2 (or worse), but it could also have the most impressive 4-0 resume in the nation. Brown has long pointed to 2013 as his year to get back into the national picture and the nation will know if he was right after just one month of play.

* A road trip to Ames isn’t all that intriguing but playing a primetime Big 12 conference game on a Thursday night gives Iowa State a national stage to pull the upset. Most importantly, a win over ISU gives Texas two extra days to prepare for the Red River Shootout that Stoops and Co. won’t be afforded.

* Texas will get another off week following the battle in the Cotton Bowl. It’s a good thing, too, because the next month will be brutal. Trips to Big 12 newbies TCU and West Virginia as well as a visit from Oklahoma State over a four-week span will be tough for the Longhorns.

* Texas will head into their third bye week before the final two weeks of the regular season. This might be the easiest three-week span and could be a confirmation of sorts for Brown — be it a national championship contender or potential swan song on the Burnt Orange sideline.

Texas Tech

Aug. 30 at SMU
Sept. 7 Stephen F. Austin
Sept. 14 TCU
Sept. 21 Texas State
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 at Kansas
Oct. 12 Iowa State
Oct. 19 at West Virginia
Oct. 26 at Oklahoma
Nov. 2 Oklahoma State
Nov. 9 Kansas State
Nov. 16 Baylor (Arlington)
Nov. 23 Bye Week
Nov. 28 at Texas
Dec. 7 Bye Week

* With a new quarterback and coaching staff taking over, it’s a good thing Texas Tech has three very winnable games in its first four matchups. SMU, Texas State and Stephen F. Austin should be victories for the Red Raiders, with a tough date against TCU sandwiched between non-conference games on Sept. 14.

* Speaking of the TCU-Texas Tech matchup, this will be the first meeting between these two teams in Lubbock since 2004. The Red Raiders and Horned Frogs have split the last two meetings, with Texas Tech winning a 56-53 three-overtime game in 2012.

* With Kansas, Iowa State and West Virginia on the October slate, Texas Tech has an opportunity to start 6-1 before a difficult stretch against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Baylor and Texas. Considering the second-half schedule, getting to a bowl game could rest with what happens before November.

* Texas Tech’s Oct. 19 trip to Morgantown is its first road game at West Virginia in school history. The Red Raiders played the Mountaineers just two previous times, with both games won by Texas Tech.

* The Red Raiders are 2-2 in their last four matchups against Oklahoma. Texas Tech upset the Sooners 41-38 in Norman in 2011 but lost 41-20 in Lubbock last season. The Red Raiders are just 2-8 in 10 previous games at Oklahoma.

* Texas Tech will play Texas on Thanksgiving night this season. The Red Raiders have not won in Austin since 1997.

* In a scheduling quirk, Texas Tech will play without a bye week from Oct. 5 to Nov. 23. And the Red Raiders have an off date the week before playing Texas, which allows Kliff Kingsbury’s team some extra time to prepare on a short week for the Thursday night game.

* For the fourth consecutive season, Texas Tech and Baylor will meet at a neutral site. The 2009 and 2011-12 matchups were held in Arlington, while the 2010 game was played at the Cotton Bowl.

West Virginia

Aug. 31 William & Mary
Sept. 7 at Oklahoma
Sept. 14 Georgia State
Sep. 21 Maryland (Baltimore)
Sept. 28 Oklahoma State
Oct. 5 at Baylor
Oct. 12 Bye Week
Oct. 19 Texas Tech
Oct. 26 at Kansas State
Nov. 2 at TCU
Nov. 9 Texas
Nov. 16 at Kansas
Nov. 23 Bye Week
Nov. 30 Iowa State
Dec. 7 Bye Week

Related Content: 2013 West Virginia Spring Preview

* Considering the new faces on offense and concerns on defense, West Virginia’s opener against William & Mary is the perfect way to start the 2013. This game should allow the Mountaineers a chance to work out some of the kinks before Big 12 play.

* However, there’s not much breathing room between the opener and Big 12 play, as West Virginia travels to Oklahoma on Sept. 7. Needless to say, coach Dana Holgorsen should have a good idea about his team after the road trip to Norman.

* West Virginia should have an easy win over Georgia State on Sept. 14, but the toughest non-conference game of its 2013 is the neutral site affair against Maryland. The Mountaineers have won the last seven games against the Terrapins and oddly enough, have scored 31 points in four out of the last six matchups in this series.

* The Mountaineers will host Oklahoma State in Morgantown for the first time since 1928 on Sept. 28. The Cowboys won 55-34 in 2012, but the overall series is tied 2-2.

* Kansas State and West Virginia will meet for only the fourth time in school history on Oct. 26. The Wildcats have won the last two matchups in the series, with the Mountaineers’ only victory coming in 1930.

* The Mountaineers will host Texas for the first time in school history on Nov. 9. West Virginia won 48-45 in Austin last season and owns a 2-0 edge in the overall series between these two teams.

* West Virginia has the unbalanced road/home game conference schedule for 2013. The Mountaineers play four home games in Big 12 play but also has five contests on the road. West Virginia plays four potential top-25 teams on the road – Baylor, Kansas State, TCU and Oklahoma – and travels to Kansas on Nov. 16.

Writeups compiled by Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

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<p> Big 12 Football 2013 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - 07:40
Path: /college-football/boise-state-broncos-2013-spring-football-preview

The 2012 season was the most nondescript and least heralded in some time at Boise State. And yet, Chris Petersen's bunch won at least 10 games for the seventh straight season and twelfth time in 15 campaigns. Despite losing seven All-Mountain West performers from the starting lineup, expectations will be higher in Boise, Idaho, in 2013 than they were a year ago. The quarterback is back, the defensive line will be incredible and the receiving corps is deep and talented. Petersen and the Broncos are poised for yet another stellar year on the blue turf.

Boise State Broncos 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 11-2 (7-1)

Spring practice dates: March 11-April 15

Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 5

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Joe Southwick, 248-of-371, 2,730 yards, 19 TDs, 7 INTs
Rushing: Jay Ajayi, 82 car., 548 yards, 4 TDs
Receiving: Matt Miller, 66 rec., 769 yards, 5 TDs
Tackles: Jeremy Ioane, 70
Sacks: Demarcus Lawrence, 9.5
Interceptions: Jeremy Ioane and Darian Thompson, 2

Redshirts to Watch: OL Mario Yakoo, OL Travis Averill, DB Chris Santini, QB Nick Patti, LB Ben Weaver, RB Devan Demas, DE Darien Barrett, CB Chaz Anderson

JUCO Transfers to Watch: RB Derrick Thomas, CB Cleshawn Page, K Tyler Rausa, DT Deuce Matale, DT Justin Taimatuia, CB Mercy Maston

2013 Schedule

Note: Only opponents have been set for the Mountain West. Times and dates are to be determined.

Aug. 31 at Washington
Sept. 7 Tennessee-Martin
Sept. 14 TBD
Sept. 21 TBD
Sept. 28 Southern Miss
Oct. 5 TBD
Oct. 10 TBD
Oct. 19 TBD
Oct. 26 at BYU
Nov. 1 TBD
Nov. 9 TBD
Nov. 16 TBD
Nov. 23 TBD
Nov. 30 TBD

Home dates, times to be determined: Air Force, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming
Road dates, times to be determined: Colorado State, Fresno State, San Diego State, Utah State

Offensive Strength: The passing game. Joe Southwick returns under center as do the six of the top seven receivers, including the top two pass-catchers in Matt Miller and Kirby Moore.

Offensive Weakness: The running game. Star running back D.J. Harper and three starting offensive linemen, including all-MWC blocker Brenel Myers, must be replaced up front. That said, there is no lack of talent at either running back or offensive line.

Defensive Strength: Defensive line. Mike Atkinson was an elite player who will be missed at nose tackle. However, the top four defensive ends return as do four of the top six defensive tackles.

Defensive Weakness: Cornerback and linebacker. Two All-MWC cornerbacks and two All-MWC linebackers are gone from the roster in '13. Finding replacements at these two positions is important this spring.

Spring Storylines Facing the Broncos:

1. Develop cover corners. There aren't too many question marks on this depth chart but Petersen will have to replace three cornerbacks, including two All-Mountain West performers in Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins. Corey Bell and Donte Deayon have some experience and should get first crack at replacing the two stars, however, fans can look for Deon'tae Florence, Jonathan Brown and Bryan Douglas — who is still recovering from a torn ACL — to provide support. A host of newcomers — junior college recruits Cleshawn Page and Mercy Maston and redshirt freshman Chaz Anderson — will likely get plenty of looks as well. The Mountain West has some big-time offenses so finding covermen will be paramount this spring for Boise State.

2. Plug holes along the offensive line. Myers was a star at right tackler and will be missed as will both guards Joe Kellogg and Michael Ames. The good news is first-team All-MWC pivot Matt Paradis returns at center while second-team left tackle Charles Leno is back as well. These are two elite pieces to build around for Petersen. Names like Spencer Gerke and Jake Broyles, both guards, have some starting experience and will be the first names into the starting lineup. This group has to replace three starters but the two returning are excellent and should help lead the new faces up front on offense.

3. Find depth at linebacker. J.C. Percy led the team in tackles and was a first-team All-MWC linebacker. Tommy Smith received honorable mention honors from the conference as well. Both are gone and Petersen is left with little in the way of experience at the heart of his defense. Blake Renaud and Tyler Gray got plenty of playing time a season ago and will get the first crack at the starting jobs this spring. Dustin Kamper is a senior who will be asked to step up in spring camp. Travis Saxton, Ben Weaver, Andrew Pint and Christopher Santini will see time as well.

4. Is Jay Ajayi ready to carry the load? Harper wasn't a traditional workhorse back like his predecessor Doug Martin, but he was a veteran who made plays. His 15 rushing touchdowns and 1,137 yards will need to be replaced. Jay Ajayi is the top returning rusher and, at 222 pounds, plays much more like Martin than Harper. He can carry the load and could be the Broncos' next great star at tailback should he grasp the starting job this spring. Jack Fields will be his top competition but figures to be the backup. Depth could be an issue at this position so expect new faces like junior college transfer Derrick Thomas and redshirt freshman Devan Demas to get plenty of chances as well.

5. Pick a kicker. Fans in Boise don't want to hear about the field goal kicking game and how important it can be. It's a bit of a sore subject, understandably so. Michael Frisina is gone after making 15-of-20 kicks last year and Petersen is left with three options: junior Dan Goodale, junior college transfer Tyler Rausa and redshirt freshman Sean Wale. Choose carefully, Coach Pete.

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<p> Boise State Broncos 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - 07:30
Path: /nascar/7-amazing-nascar-stats-bristol-motor-speedway

Bristol Motor Speedway received a re-tooling of sorts following last spring’s race, so there will be a bevy of unknowns this weekend when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series takes to the high-banked half-mile oval.

What is known is that three races are in the books and two of the usual suspects, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski, are running on all cylinders as others — and you’ll read of one below — are experiencing early-season struggles. We also know what we were able to learn from the Bristol race last August, an exciting caution flag-fueled event that paid dividends to those that had the ability to either move through the field or retain track position.

For PEER and other metrics in the following article with which you may be unfamiliar, I refer you to my glossary of terms on

3.7 and 0.6 Brad Keselowski is averaging a 3.7-place finish, grouped with a strong 0.6 finish deviation.

Holy Keselowski! The Penske Racing No. 2 team is really, really good right now. The act of them being good isn’t a shock; the extent of their goodness is what is amazing. Through three races, the championship-winning entry from 2012 has amassed a 3.7-place average finish. How legitimate is that? Their 0.6 finish deviation — and mind you, zero is perfectly consistent — tells us the team isn’t wavering much from that average. Keselowski and team are both staggeringly fast and pinpoint consistent. If the champs want to repeat, they’re off to a blazing start.

-42.1 percent   Jeff Gordon and team can’t hold onto positions late in races, suggested by their negative-42.1 percent position retainment difference.

What is going on with the No. 24? Averaging a 12.7-place running position at the 10 percent-to-go mark, a precipitous drop occurs in the final stages of races, in which they average an 18th-place finish. Gordon and crew chief Alan Gustafson were more balanced position retainers last year, with a plus-3.4 percent difference. Races like last weekend at Las Vegas, in which they dropped from 21st to a finish of 25th in the final 27 laps, can’t be tolerated for a team hoping to land a Chase spot.

17.0  Thanks to a 17.0-place average finish, Paul Menard is the highest ranked Richard Childress Racing driver in the Cup Series standings.

Who would have thought? It’s true. After three races, Menard and team are the lead dogs in the RCR yard, ranking 12th in Cup Series standings; however, that’s probably not something that will last. Both Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton crashed out of Daytona, while Menard’s team has finished in the top half of the field in all three events. Harvick’s No. 29 team doesn’t often leave races on the table, evident by the team’s 88-plus Relevance percentage (read: percentage of races in a season finished in the top half of fields) in each of the last three years.

<p> Seven amazing NASCAR stats for Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 18:49
Path: /mlb/best-mlb-free-agent-signings-2013

As spring training continues in Florida and Arizona, Athlon Sports offers its thoughts on all the offseason movement. Here are the best free agent signings in Major League Baseball for 2013:

Mike Adams, Philadelphia Phillies
2 years, $12,000,000
Last year Philadelphia’s set-up men blew 15 saves. Adams has blown just 11 in the last five seasons and should solve the Phils’ eighth-inning woes.

Michael Bourn, Cleveland Indians
4 years, $48,000,000
The Indians certainly were the beneficiaries of a shrinking market late in the offseason. Bourn, one of the best defensive center fielders in the game, immediately makes the Cleveland pitching staff better. While his efficiency stealing bases has declined the past few years, he has a .346 OBP over the past three seasons and will be the catalyst for the Indians' lineup. With a vesting option for 2017, this contract will likely end up being a five-year, $60 million deal, which will make it look even better. It’s backloaded as Bourn will make just seven million this season.

Kyuji Fujikawa, Chicago Cubs
2 years, $9,500,000
It’s always difficult to project how Japanese pitchers will fare in the U.S. Hideki Irabu was not very good; Dice-K’s success was short-lived; Yu Darvish is off to a great start. But Fujikawa owns 510 Ks and only a combined 316 hits and walks in six seasons in Japan. By the end of this deal, he should be ranked fifth on the Cubs’ all-time saves list.
Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers
6 years, $147,000,000
The former American League Cy Young winner will begin to understand the pressure that a $147 million contract brings, but he enters the best situation to succeed of his career. He should get solid run support and will make about half his starts in a terrific pitcher’s park. 
Dan Haren, Washington Nationals
1 year, $13,000,000
Haren was not fully healthy in 2012, the first season he logged fewer than 216 innings since becoming a full-time starter in 2005. He will round out one of the top rotations in baseball.
Roberto Hernandez, Tampa Bay Rays
1 year, $3,250,000
Performed under the stage name of Fausto Carmona for several years in Cleveland. He made just three starts last season and is 33–51 with a 5.06 ERA over the past five seasons. However, given some time with pitching coach Jim Hickey, perhaps Hernandez can rekindle his career.
Torii Hunter, Detroit Tigers
2 years, $26,000,000
In the Tigers’ lineup, his bat will be a bonus as he improves the outfield defense. Hunter is the type of player the city of Detroit will love.
Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners
2 years, $14,000,000
Iwakuma joined the Mariners’ rotation in July and made 16 starts. Over his last 13 starts he had a 2.16 ERA, and Seattle was 9–4 in those games.  
Edwin Jackson, Chicago Cubs
4 years, $52,000,000
This four-year deal may finally end the nomadic portion of Jackson’s career in which he played for six teams in the last five seasons. During that time, he’s averaged 32 starts, 199 innings, 12 wins and a 4.06 ERA. His record tends to reflect his team’s, so don’t expect him to be better than .500 for his first few seasons in Chicago.
Hiroki Kuroda, New York Yankees
1 year, $15,000,000
It’s surprising that Kuroda didn’t get a multi-year deal. He and CC Sabathia anchor the Yankees’ pitching staff.
James Loney, Tampa Bay Rays
1 year, $2,000,000
The slick-fielding first baseman could be the latest offensive reclamation in Tampa Bay. His defense alone at first base is worth the $2 million.
Hiroyuki Nakajima, Oakland Athletics
2 years, $6,500,000
The .300 hitter from Japan is a much cheaper (and better?) option than Stephen Drew if the A’s had picked up Drew’s $10 million option.
David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
2 years, $26,000,000
Expect Big Papi’s production to drop. But he’s a fan favorite, and $11 million in 2014 isn’t going to hamstring the team. This is a good gamble.
Angel Pagan, San Francisco Giants
4 years, $40,000,000
The fleet center fielder sparked the Giants’ offense during the pennant drive last season, including scoring 32 runs in August.
Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox
2 years, $29,000,000
Only five times last season did a pitcher throw nine or more innings, give up three runs or fewer and lose. That happened to Peavy twice. The righthander agreed to these terms in lieu of a $4 million buyout. 
Andy Pettitte, New York Yankees
1 year, $12,000,000
The aging lefty made two quality starts in the postseason in 2012, giving the Yankees confidence that there’s one more season left in the old vet.
A.J. Pierzynski, Texas Rangers
1 year, $7,500,000
A catcher who can hit and answers the bell every day is worth $7.5 million.
Mark Reynolds, Cleveland Indians
1 year, $6,000,000
This is a low-risk, medium-reward play for Cleveland, and Reynolds’ right-handed raw power will probably make it pay off for the Tribe.
Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees
1 year, $10,000,000
Never bet against the Sandman.
Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers
6 years, $36,000,000
Even considering the $25.7 million posting fee, Ryu stands to be a good bargain as a No. 4 starter for the Dodgers making just $10 million over the next three seasons in addition to his $5 million signing bonus. With the Dodgers’ win-at-all-costs mentality, this is not an outlandish contract.
Marco Scutaro, San Francisco Giants
3 years, $20,000,000
It’s too much to expect Scutaro to continue to hit .362 as he did down the stretch for the Giants last season. But over the past four years, he has batted .290 with a .356 OBP. 
Nick Swisher, Cleveland Indians
4 years, $56,000,000
In a free agent market short on outfielders, the Indians may have paid a little too much. But Swisher will be a big part of any success the Indians have under manager Terry Francona.


Want more baseball? Check out Athlon Sports' 2013 Baseball Annual for the most complete preview available. Order your copy now! 

<p> We run down the best bargains in baseball</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 13:00
Path: /college-football/west-virginia-mountaineers-2013-spring-football-preview

After a 5-0 start last season, West Virginia was poised to be a contender for the Big 12 title, while quarterback Geno Smith was an early Heisman favorite. However, the season started to crumble after a 49-14 defeat at Texas Tech, which threw the Mountaineers into a five-game losing streak. Even though West Virginia rebounded with wins against Iowa State and Kansas to close the regular season, finishing 7-6 was a disappointment for a team loaded with offensive talent. Moving to the Big 12 was a step up in competition, but the defense was the primary culprit for the struggles. Fixing that side of the ball, along with reloading the offense are the top spring priorities for coach Dana Holgorsen. The Mountaineers will be picked near the bottom of the Big 12 in 2013, and this spring is crucial to finding the right answers on both sides of the ball.

West Virginia Mountaineers 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 7-6 (4-5)

Spring practice dates: March 10-April 20

Returning Starters: Offense – 3, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Paul Millard, 9 of 19, 87 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Andrew Buie, 179 car., 851 yards, 7 TDs
Receiving: Andrew Buie, 28 rec., 318 yards, 0 TD
Tackles: Karl Joseph, 104
Sacks: Kyle Rose and Shaq Petteway, 1.5
Interceptions: Isaiah Bruce and Karl Joseph, 2

Redshirts to watch: QB Ford Childress, OL Tyler Orlosky, OL Tony Matteo, DL Noble Nwachukwu, WR Devonte Mathis, CB Brandon Napoleon

Early Enrollees to watch: LB Hodari Christian, S Malik Greaves, QB Chavas Rawlins, WR Daikiel Shorts, RB Wendell Smallwood, RB Dreamius Smith, WR Kevin White

JUCO Transfers to Watch: WR Mario Alford, WR Ronald Carswell, LB Brandon Golson, LB d’Vante Henry, DE Dontrill Hyman, P Nick O’Toole, RB Dreamius Smith, OL Stone Underwood, WR Kevin White

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 William & Mary
Sept. 7 at Oklahoma
Sept. 14 Georgia State
Sept. 21 Maryland (Baltimore)
Sept. 28 Oklahoma State
Oct. 5 at Baylor
Oct. 12 Bye Week
Oct. 19 Texas Tech
Oct. 26 at Kansas State
Nov. 2 at TCU
Nov. 9 Texas
Nov. 16 at Kansas
Nov. 23 Bye Week
Nov. 29 Iowa State

Offensive Strength: With just three starters returning, it’s hard to call any unit of West Virginia’s offense a strength. However, there’s some promising talent returning at running back, led by Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison. Junior college transfer (and all-name team selection) Dreamius Smith will also figure into the mix.

Offensive Weakness: After averaging 502 yards per game last season, West Virginia has some major question marks to answer in spring ball. Quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin won’t be easy to replace, while the offensive line loses three starters.

Defensive Strength: You have to look really hard to find a strength on West Virginia’s defense after a miserable 2012 season. If there’s a bright spot, it’s the play of youngsters Isaiah Bruce (LB) and Karl Joseph (S) last season. As sophomores in 2013, the Mountaineers need both players to be even better. 

Defensive Weakness: Everywhere. West Virginia’s defense allowed 40 or more points six times in Big 12 play and finished near the bottom nationally in pass defense.

Spring Storylines Facing the Mountaineers

1. Is Ford Childress the answer at quarterback? West Virginia opens spring practice with four quarterbacks vying for time under center, but the battle is expected to come down to sophomore Paul Millard and redshirt freshman Ford Childress. Millard has thrown 34 passes in his career but does not have a start under his belt. Childress was regarded as one of the top 20 quarterbacks in the 2012 signing class and should be a good fit for West Virginia’s offense. Although Millard has the edge in experience, the redshirt freshman has more talent and should claim the No. 1 job. As with any new quarterback, there will be some ups and downs. However, Childress has the talent to post huge numbers in Dana Holgorsen’s offense.

2. Restocking the receiving corps. Losing Geno Smith is a huge blow to West Virginia’s offense, but that isn’t the only loss on this side of the ball. Gone are receivers Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, J.D. Woods and Ryan Nehlen. Running back Andrew Buie is the team’s top returner in terms of catches, with the top receiver being Jordan Thompson at just 13 receptions. The Mountaineers are counting on Thompson to become one of the top playmakers in this offense, while junior college recruits Kevin White, Mario Alford and Ronald Carswell need to emerge as impact players. Redshirt freshman Devonte Mathis and true freshman Shelton Gibson are other names to watch this preseason, as West Virginia will likely spend a lot of time mixing and matching to find the best four starting options for Childress or Millard.  

3. Fixing the defense. Depending on how you view returning starters, West Virginia’s defense is in either good or bad shape. The Mountaineers return seven starters on that side of the ball, but this unit was horrendous last year. West Virginia ranked last in the Big 12 in points allowed, 118th nationally in pass defense and 108th in yards allowed. Ouch. Keith Patterson will call the plays on defense this season, and needless to say, he will have his hands full in spring practice. The Mountaineers need help at each level of the defense, but the secondary needs extra attention with the departure of cornerback Pat Miller and linebacker/safety Terence Garvin. Considering the passing offenses in the Big 12, West Virginia cannot afford to have a leaky secondary all year once again. Establishing a better pass rush is also crucial to addressing some of the holes in pass defense. Three junior college transfers will help add some competition to the defense, but the Mountaineers need some of their younger players, along with the returning starters to step it up in 2013.

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<p> West Virginia Mountaineers 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 12:30
Path: /college-basketball/2013-mountain-west-conference-tournament-preview

March Madness is just getting started as the college basketball season shifts to the conference tournaments. Titles will be won, NCAA Tournament spots will be clinched or lost all over the country. Here’s what to watch in the Mountain West.

Starts: March 12
Final: March 16 in Las Vegas (CBS)
First-round games:
No. 8 Wyoming vs. No. 9 Nevada (Tuesday)
No. 3 UNLV vs No. 6 Air Force (Wednesday)
No. 2 Colorado State vs. No. 7 Fresno State (Wednesday)
No. 1 New Mexico vs. Wyoming/Nevada (Wednesday)
No. 4 San Diego State vs. No. 5 Boise State (Wednesday)

Full Bracket: (.pdf)

Other conference tournament previews:
Big East

The Lobos won the regular-season title by two full games, an impressive feat considering that five of the nine teams in the league are expected to make the NCAA Tournament. Kendall Williams had the 46-point explosion against Colorado State, but Alex Kirk has been more consistent down the stretch (17.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg in the last five).

DARK HORSE: Boise State
The Broncos are playing their best ball of the season, with wins in five of their last six games. They are well-coached under former Gonzaga assistant Leon Rice and have two outstanding scorers — Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks.

New Mexico had the best team during the regular season, but UNLV is blessed with the most talented roster. The Rebels didn’t always play like it, though. Perhaps losing at home to Fresno State in the regular season finale was a wake-up call. The Rebels also have to the advantage of playing the tournament on their home floor.

Related: Top Buzzer Beaters for 2012-13 (so far)

Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV

Boise State
The Broncos look pretty good for a bid after closing the season on a 5-1 run. During that span, Boise State defeated San Diego State and Colorado State at home. If the Broncos can add a second win over the Aztecs, this time on a neutral site, lock up their bid.

Related: All 2013 postseason college basketball coverage

<p> 2013 Mountain West Conference Tournament Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 12:30
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-state-cowboys-2013-spring-football-preview

Coming off a 12-1 season and the departure of a couple of key players, an 8-5 record in 2012 was about what most expected from Oklahoma State. The Cowboys finished with five victories in Big 12 play, with three of their four losses coming by a touchdown or less. With 12 starters back for 2013, Mike Gundy’s team is positioned for a run at the Big 12 title. There’s a new coordinator on offense (Mike Yurcich), but Oklahoma State shouldn’t miss a beat on that side of the ball. With a schedule that features home matchups against TCU, Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma, the Cowboys have everything in place to make a run at 10 victories and a conference title. 

Oklahoma State Cowboys 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 8-5 (5-4)

Spring practice dates: March 11-April 20

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Clint Chelf, 119 of 197, 1,588 yards, 15 TDs, 6 INTs
Rushing: Jeremy Smith, 70 car., 371 yards, 8 TDs
Receiving: Josh Stewart, 101 rec., 1,210 yards, 7 TDs
Tackles: Daytawion Lowe, 75
Sacks: Tyler Johnson, 4
Interceptions: Three players tied with 2

Redshirts to watch: OL Michael Wilson, LB Jeremiah Tshimanga, LB Seth Jacobs, WR C.J. Curry, DE Eric Davis, DE Victor Irokansi, OL Zac Veatch

Early Enrollees to watch: OL Brandon Garrett, DE Naim Mustafaa

JUCO Transfers to watch: OL Brandon Garrett, DT Ofa Hautau, DE Sam Wren

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Mississippi State (Houston)
Sept. 7 at UTSA
Sept. 14 Lamar
Sept. 28 at West Virginia
Oct. 5 Kansas State
Oct. 12 Bye Week
Oct. 19 TCU
Oct. 26 at Iowa State
Nov. 2 at Texas Tech
Nov. 9 Kansas
Nov. 16 at Texas
Nov. 23 Baylor
Nov. 30 Bye Week
Dec. 7 Oklahoma

Offensive Strength: Where should we start? The Cowboys have three proven quarterbacks, and one of the Big 12’s top running back duos in Jeremy Smith and Desmond Roland. The receiving corps is one of the best in the conference, as Josh Stewart leads the way after catching 101 passes in 2012.

Offensive Weakness: It’s hard to find a weakness on the Cowboys offense, but the line must replace three starters, including first-team All-Big 12 performer Lane Taylor.

Defensive Strength: Despite losing Alex Elkins, Oklahoma State has to feel good about its linebacking corps for 2013. Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors last season, while there’s plenty of depth to replace Elkins with Lyndell Johnson, Joe Mitchell and Ryan Simmons returning.

Defensive Weakness: As mentioned above with the offense, it’s hard to find a glaring weakness for Oklahoma State’s defense. Sure, the Cowboys can play better than they did in 2012, but this unit returns seven starters, and the promotion of Glenn Spencer to coordinator assures continuity. Depth at defensive end and upgrading the performance in the secondary are two key areas to watch in spring practice.

Spring Storylines Facing the Cowboys

1. Who wins the quarterback battle? Having more than one starting quarterback is generally considered a bad thing. However, Oklahoma State has three proven options that could lead it to a Big 12 title this season. Wes Lunt began the year as the starter but suffered a knee injury against Louisiana-Lafayette and was forced to sit out the next three games. J.W. Walsh replaced Lunt and recorded three performances of at least 300 passing yards, while leading Oklahoma State to a 2-1 record. However, Walsh suffered a knee injury against Iowa State, which gave the job back to Lunt. And after Lunt was forced to leave the Kansas State game due to injury, Clint Chelf started the final five games and finished the season with 1,588 yards and 15 touchdown tosses. The Cowboys can win with any of the three quarterbacks under center, but they need to pick a No. 1 option. If Chelf is the starter, Walsh could play some time in a change-of-pace role. And considering Lunt is a true sophomore, he still has a redshirt season available. With the options and uncertainty surrounding Oklahoma State this spring, this is one of the most intriguing quarterback battles in the nation.

2. Restocking the offensive line. Considering line coach Joe Wickline is one of the best in the nation, Oklahoma State isn’t too worried about replacing three starters up front. Gone are center Evan Epstein and guards Lane Taylor and Jonathan Rush. Taylor is the biggest loss out of the trio, as he earned first-team All-Big 12 honors last season. The tackle spots should be in good shape with Parker Graham and Daniel Koenig, while Brandon Webb started the final five games at left guard last season. Jake Jenkins will get the first crack at replacing Epstein at center, while the coaching staff wants to get an extended look at tackle Devin Davis and junior college transfer Brandon Garrett.

3. Reloading at defensive end. Outside of replacing cornerback Brodrick Brown, the Cowboys biggest priority in spring practice will be finding contributors at defensive end. Cooper Bassett, Nigel Nicholas and Ryan Robinson all expired their eligibility after the bowl game, leaving Tyler Johnson (27 tackles) as the team’s top defensive end. Outside of Johnson, there’s very little in the way of depth. Sophomores Trace Clark and Jimmy Bean, along with three redshirt freshmen are under the spotlight to perform this spring. Junior college recruit Sam Wren and Naim Mustafaa will also figure into the mix and could jump to the top of the depth chart if the Clark, Bean or any of the redshirt freshmen fail to seize a starting spot. There’s a lot of names here, but Oklahoma State needs to settle on its starters, while figuring out its backup rotation for fall practice.

4. Cornerback question marks? Even though Oklahoma State’s secondary may not have lived up to its potential in 2012, replacing a three-year starter in Brodrick Brown is no easy task. Justin Gilbert will slide into the No. 1 cornerback role, while sophomore Kevin Peterson is expected to replace Brown. Peterson was solid in limited action last season, recording 20 tackles and two pass breakups in 13 games. While Gilbert and Peterson should be a solid duo, proven depth is a question mark. Cornerback coach Jason Jones left for Ole Miss in early March, so coordinator Glenn Spencer and new assistant Tim Duffie will be watching this unit closely in spring practice.

5. Who replaces Quinn Sharp? Kicker/punter Quinn Sharp was one of the best in the nation during his career at Oklahoma State and filling his shoes won’t be easy in 2013. Three kickers will vie for the starting gig in spring practice, including UCLA transfer Kip Smith, while senior Michael Reichenstein is the only punter listed on the roster. Incoming freshman Ben Grogan won’t compete until the fall, but he could be an answer at kicker or punter. Considering Sharp was the Big 12’s Co-Special Teams Player of the Year last season, replacing his production is no easy task. 

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<p> Oklahoma State Cowboys 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 12:27
Path: /college-basketball/2013-big-east-conference-tournament-preview

March Madness is just getting started as the college basketball season shifts to the conference tournaments. Titles will be won, NCAA Tournament spots will be clinched or lost all over the country. Here’s what to watch in the Big East.

Starts: March 12
Final: March 16 in New York (ESPN)
First-round games:
No. 12 Seton Hall vs. No. 13 USF (Tuesday)
No. 11 Rutgers vs. No. 14 DePaul (Tuesday)
No. 8 Providence vs. No. 9 Providence (Wednesday)
No. 5 Syracuse vs. Seton Hall/USF (Wednesday)
No. 7 Villanova vs. No. 10 St. John’s (Wednesday)
No. 6 Notre Dame vs. Rutgers/DePaul (Wednesday)

Byes to the quarterfinals:
No. 1 Georgetown
No. 2 Louisville
No. 3 Marquette
No. 4 Pittsburgh

Full Bracket: (.pdf)

Other conference tournament previews:
Mountain West

THE FAVORITE: Georgetown
The Hoyas, led by unanimous All-Big East first teamer Otto Porter, won 13 of their final 14 games — capped off Saturday’s 61–39 win over rival Syracuse. Georgetown’s prowess on defense will make it hard to beat at Madison Square Garden. The Hoyas are also playing for a potential No. 1 seed if they can win their first Big East Tournament since 2007.

DARK HORSE: Villanova
Any team that can claim wins over Louisville, Syracuse, Marquette and Georgetown has to be considered a threat to win the Big East Tournament. A word of caution: Most of the Wildcats’ impressive wins this season have come at home.

ATHLON’S PICK: Louisville
The Cardinals have recovered from their puzzling late-January three-game slide. Louisville won 10 of its last 11 games, with the only setback coming at Notre Dame in five overtimes. Gorgui Dieng averaged 11.2 points and 10.8 rebounds in Big East play compared to 6.8 and 6.7 before his injury.

Related: Top Buzzer Beaters for 2012-13 (so far)

Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse

The Wildcats are awfully close to lock territory with the marquee wins this season. Losses to Columbia, Providence (twice) and Seton Hall earlier this season mean Villanova needs to avoid a loss to 10th-seeded St. John’s in the first round.

The Bearcats looked all but certain to be in the field to start February, but Cincinnati finished on a 3-6 slide. Cincinnati dodged a resume-killing loss to USF in the regular-season finale in overtime. Now the Bearcats have to prove they can defeat Providence. Through the Friars aren’t an at-large candidate, they have defeated Cincinnati already this season in addition to beating Notre Dame and Villanova.

Related: All 2013 postseason college basketball coverage

<p> 2013 Big East Conference Tournament Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 12:07
All taxonomy terms: 2013 March Madness, College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-power-rankings-gonzaga-waits-no-1

Gonzaga may end up with the best seat in the house for the conference tournaments.

After defeating Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference finals, the Bulldogs will sit with their resume complete and their No. 1 ranking intact.

The only question is where Gonzaga will sit on Selection Sunday. With the nation’s best record, Mark Few’s team has a good chance to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. If indeed Gonzaga gets one of those four coveted spots, the next questions is the other three teams on the top line of the bracket.

Conference tournaments will go a long way to determining those teams. The Big Ten, as it has been all season, is loaded, but Indiana may have a substantial edge with its win at Michigan on Sunday and an outright conference title.

Elsewhere, we’re curious to see how high Duke can climb. With Ryan Kelly back in the line up, the Blue Devils again look like a No. 1 overall team.

Related: Key stats from March 4-10


1. Gonzaga (31-2, 16-0 West Coast)
Last week’s rank: 1
Last week’s results: Defeated Loyola Marymount and Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference Tournament
Up next: NCAA Tournament
Buzz: Zags win WCC Tournament for 11th time since 1999. Does a No. 1 seed await?

2. Duke (27-4, 14-4 ACC)
Last week’s rank: 2
Last week’s results: Defeated Virginia Tech 89-57, defeated North Carolina 69-53
This week: ACC Tournament
Buzz: Blue Devils could be the No. 1 overall seed in NCAAs despite not winning ACC regular season.

3. Indiana (26-5, 14-4 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 3
Last week’s results: Lost to Ohio State 67-58, defeated Michigan 72-71
This week: Big Ten Tournament
Buzz: Hoosiers capitalize on Michigan’s missed FTs to earn hard-fought win.

Debate: Zeller or Oladipo for Indiana's MVP

4. Georgetown (24-5, 14-4 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 4
Last week’s results: Lost to Villanova 67-57, defeated Syracuse 61-39
This week: Big East Tournament
Buzz: Hoyas outscore Syracuse by a combined 33 points en route to season sweep.

Related: Big East Tournament preview

5. Louisville (26-5, 14-4 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 8
Last week’s results: Defeated Notre Dame 73-57
This week: Big East Tournament
Buzz: Only one the Cards’ last seven opponents have scored more than 60 points. 

6. Michigan (25-6, 12-5 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 5
Last week’s results: Defeated Purdue 80-75, lost to Indiana 72-71
This week: Big Ten Tournament
Buzz: Wolverines will have trouble getting past the collapse against Indiana.

7. Miami (24-6, 15-3 ACC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Last week’s results: Lost to Georgia Tech 71-69, defeated Clemson 62-49
This week: ACC Tournament
Buzz: Here’s a surprise: Hurricanes’ win ACC title in hoops before football.

8. Kansas (26-5, 14-4 Big 12)
Last week’s rank: 7
Last week’s results: Lost to Baylor 81-58
This week: Big 12 Tournament
Buzz: KU loses at Baylor — must “settle” for a share of 12th straight Big 12 title with Kansas State.  

9. Michigan State (24-7, 13-5 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 9
Last week’s results: Defeated Wisconsin 58-43, defeated Northwestern 71-61
This week: Big Ten Tournament
Buzz: Spartans win final two games as Gary Harris earnes Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors.

10. Ohio State (23-7, 13-5 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 15
Last week’s results: Defeated Indiana 57-58, defeated Illinois 68-55
This week: Big Ten Tournament
Buzz: Buckeyes head to Big Ten Tournament riding a five-game winning streak. 

11. Florida (24-6, 14-4 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 10
Last week’s results: Defeated Vanderbilt 66-40, lost to Kentucky 61-57
This week: SEC Tournament
Buzz: Gators slog through final 10 with 6-4 record after 8-0 start in SEC play.

12. Marquette (23-7, 14-4 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 16
Last week’s results: Defeated Rutgers 60-54, defeated St. John’s 69-67 (OT)
This week: Big East Tournament
Buzz: Golden Eagles share Big East title thanks to Vander Blue’s game-winner at MSG.

13. Oklahoma State (23-7, 12-5 Big 12)
Last week’s rank: 12
Last week’s results: Lost to Iowa State 87-76, defeated Kansas State 76-70
This week: Big 12 Tournament
Buzz: Pokes close out regular season in style with a win over Kansas State. 

14. Kansas State (25-6, 14-4 Big 12)
Last week’s rank: 11
Last week’s results: Defeated TCU 79-68, lost to Oklahoma State 76-70
This week: Big 12 Tournament
Buzz: Kansas State earns a share of Big 12 title — its first league crown since 1977.

15. New Mexico (26-5, 13-3 Mountain West)
Last week’s rank: 13
Last week’s results: Defeated Nevada 75-62, lost to Air Force 89-88
This week: Mountain West Tournament
Buzz: Lobos ranked No. 2 in the RPI even after closing season with a loss to Air Force.

Related: Mountain West Tournament preview

16. Saint Louis (24-6, 13-3 Atlantic 10)
Last week’s rank: 17
Last week’s results: Lost to Xavier 77-66 (OT), defeated La Salle 78-54
This week: Atlantic 10 Tournament
Buzz: VCU’s loss to Temple gives Saint Louis the outright Atlantic 10 title. 

17. Pittsburgh (24-7, 12-6 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 21
Last week’s results: Defeated DePaul 81-66
This week: Big East Tournament
Buzz: Nice bounce-back season from Pitt; Panthers finish fourth in Big East. 

18. UCLA (23-8, 13-5 Pac-12)
Last week’s rank: 18
Last week’s results: Lost to Washington State 73-61, defeated Washington 61-54
This week: Pac-12 Tournament
Buzz: Bruins’ first win at Washington since 2004 earns them the outright Pac-12 title.

19. Notre Dame (23-8, 11-7 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 20
Last week’s results: Defeated St. John’s 66-40, lost to Louisville 73-57
This week: Big East Tournament
Buzz: Defensive issues could keep Irish from being much of a threat in postseason.

20. Arizona (22-7, 10-6 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 22
Last week’s results: Defeated Arizona State 73-58
This week: Pac-12 Tournament
Buzz: Wildcats stop the bleeding — two straight losses — by beating Arizona State.

21. North Carolina (22-9, 12-6 ACC)
Last week’s rank: 23
Last week’s results: Defeated Maryland 79-68, lost to Duke 69-53
This week: ACC Tournament
Buzz: One bad game vs. Duke doesn’t ruin Heels’ strong late-season showing.

22. Wisconsin (21-10, 12-6 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 24
Last week’s results: Lost to Michigan State 58-43, defeated Penn State 63-60
This week: Big Ten Tournament
Buzz: Badgers avoid disaster by beating Penn State on a three-pointer at the buzzer.

23. Creighton (27-7, 13-5 Missouri Valley)
Last week’s rank: NR
Last week’s results: Defeated Drake, Indiana State and Wichita State in the Missouri Valley Tournament
Up next: NCAA Tournament
Buzz: Arch Madness ends with Creighton cutting down the nets.

24. Colorado State (24-7, 11-5 Mountain West)
Last week’s rank: NR
Last week’s results: Defeated Wyoming 78-56, defeated Nevada 77-66
This week: Mountain West Tournament
Buzz: Larry Eustachy on verge of second NCAA bid in two seasons with two different teams.

25. VCU (24-7, 12-4 Atlantic 10)
Last week’s rank: 25
Last week’s results: Defeated Richmond 93-82, lost to Temple 84-76
This week: Atlantic 10 Tournament
Buzz: Rams’ frenetic defense is tough to prepare for in a tournament setting.

Out: No. 14 Syracuse, No. 19 Oregon

<p> College Basketball Power Rankings: Gonzaga waits at No. 1</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 11:25
All taxonomy terms: free agents, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-free-agency-players-watch

The NFL’s new league year officially begins today. The more prominent indicator that business has begun for the 2013 season is the start of free agency at 4 p.m. ET. While some teams have already made several moves, with more than 500 players on the market, the activity will really pick up starting later today.

Some teams figure to be more active than others in free agency, and here are just some of the names that should draw plenty of attention from both teams and observers alike.

Related: 2013 NFL Free Agency: Teams to Watch

15 Players to Keep an Eye On

1. Wes Welker, WR
Welker has averaged 112 receptions over his six-year tenure with New England, leading the NFL in catches and ranking fourth in receiving yards (7,459) during this same span (2007-12). He will be 32 in May and probably realizes this is his last time to cash in on that sustained production. The Patriots have a history of not handing out exorbitant contracts (unless your name is Tom Brady), and there’s already been some bad blood between the front office and the receiver on the compensation front.

Welker is in an ideal situation when it comes to quarterback-wide receiver relationship and the Patriots have been contenders for years, but he wants to get paid and feel that he’s valued and appreciated. Who blinks first – the player or the team? Or does Welker move on to greener pastures?

Potential interested teams: There's no team that wouldn't want to add a 100-catch wide receiver, but let's throw out Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston, Jacksonville, Miami, Minnesota, New England, and Tennessee as the ones most likely to pursue Welker in some form or fashion.

Comes down to: New England vs. the field.

Potential dark horses: Cincinnati, closely followed by Houston. The Bengals can pay and have been to the playoffs the last two seasons, while the Texans appear on the verge of establishing themselves as a perennial contender.

Where he ends up: In the end, Welker finds out the grass may not actually be greener on the other side of the fence, even if it means he takes a little less green to stay with Bill Belichick and company. NEW ENGLAND

2. Mike Wallace, WR
Wallace is similar to Welker in that he also wants to get paid like a true No. 1 wide receiver. Where they differ, however, is in age (Wallace will turn 27 in August) and production. Wallace averaged 1,225 yards receiving from 2010-11, but that dropped to just 836 yards last season. Still, he’s tied for 4th in the NFL with 26 touchdown catches over the past three seasons combined and has a four-year average of 17.2 yards per reception.

Potential interested teams: Pretty much any team looking for a No. 1 wide receiver or a legitimate deep threat that can afford Wallace – Buffalo, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Miami, Minnesota, St. Louis and Tennessee all come to mind.

Comes down to: Depending on who you ask or what you read, the Dolphins seem to be the odds-on favorite to sign Wallace, who would be a nice complement to the re-signed Brian Hartline. A potential monkey wrench to the Dolphins’ plans, however, could be Minnesota trading Percy Harvin to Seattle on Monday, which puts the Vikings also in the market for a No. 1 wide receiver. If money is the prime motivator for Wallace, the Browns could be the Dolphins’ only true competition in that respect.

Potential dark horse: Indianapolis doesn’t “need” Wallace with Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton already on the roster, but the Colts do have the cap space to afford Wallace and he could serve as the heir apparent to Wayne, much like Marvin Harrison did for him years ago.

Where he ends up: Unless the Browns or Colts back up the Brinks truck, I think Wallace is taking his talents to South Beach. MIAMI

3. Jake Long, OT
It’s not often a 27-year-old All-Pro left tackle becomes available, but that’s the case with Long. Miami chose not to use the franchise tag on the No. 1 overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft, as he was hampered by injuries the past two seasons, including a torn triceps in 2012. Still, some team is going to make a significant commitment in hopes that the four-time Pro Bowler still has several productive seasons in him.

Potential interested teams: Long is a hard one to peg because chances are he still would like to get paid like a former No. 1 overall pick, even though no one is really sure if he can still play like one. Still, there are plenty of teams for which Long would serve as an upgrade on its offensive line, including, but not limited to: Arizona, Chicago, Dallas, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Oakland, Philadelphia, San Diego and Tennessee.

Comes down to: How many of these teams will pursue Long is hard to tell because he may simply be too cost-prohibitive for some. His overall market may be determined in large part by the size of his contract demands. I do think that Arizona, Chicago, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Oakland, San Diego and Tennessee hang in there as long as they possibly can.

Potential dark horse: Even though they may not have as much cap space as some of the other teams listed, don’t rule out the Cardinals, Chargers or Raiders, who could use someone like Long to stabilize their line.

Where he ends up: I don’t think Long will be able to break the bank like he was hoping to, but in the end he lands with a team that can desperately use his pass-blocking skills, one of his strengths. CHICAGO

4. Ed Reed, S
The future Hall of Famer checked off the last thing on his Canton-worthy resume with Baltimore’s Super Bowl win in February. The Ravens would like to bring Reed back so he can finish his career with the team that drafted him, but another team may be able to offer Reed more money and the chance at a second Super Bowl ring. Should Reed leave, can Baltimore fans really harbor any ill will against him? Even if he ends up playing for another AFC North team?

Potential interested teams: If he doesn’t re-sign with the Ravens, Reed more than likely will look to land with a team that he feels gives him the best chance to win, and quickly. In the AFC that means Denver, Houston and New England could be potential destinations with Atlanta, Green Bay and San Francisco the most likely landing spots in the NFC.

Comes down to: With Ray Lewis retired and now Anquan Boldin traded to San Francisco, I would think the Ravens would do all they can to bring Reed back. If not Baltimore, then I say the 49ers, Packers and Patriots are next on the list.

Potential dark horse: Miami’s got the money and Reed is a former Hurricane. What better way to end your career than by playing in South Florida, right?

Where he ends up: Before the Boldin trade, I would have put the percentage of Reed returning to Baltimore at no worse than 80/20. Now, I’m not so sure as it looks like the Ravens are looking for ways to rebuild as quickly as possible. Even if Reed is in the team’s plans, he may not want to be a part of it. That said, I think he sees enough reasons and gets just enough money to stay with the only team he’s played for his entire pro career, unless he decides to join Boldin in San Francisco. BALTIMORE

5. Cliff Avril, DE
Avril has racked up 29 sacks over the last three seasons as he has been one of the more disruptive defensive ends in the league. Unlike Reed, Freeney and Harrison, Avril is still a relatively young pup who will turn 27 in April. His production in Detroit speaks for itself and his age only makes him even more appealing to teams in need of a playmaking defensive end.

Potential interested teams: Any team that’s looking to add an impact defensive end that has proven he can get to the quarterback. Atlanta, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Oakland, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Tennessee all fit the bill. I also think Detroit would have no problem bringing Avril back, and don’t rule out a team like Denver, Green Bay or New England either, although cost could be a factor for these clubs.

Comes down to: Of the teams listed above the Buccaneers, Browns, Colts, Eagles and Jaguars appear to be the ones that can potentially offer Avril the most money. I expect the Falcons, Lions, Packers and Titans to hang around as long as they can afford to as well.

Potential dark horse: The Broncos have reportedly expressed an interest in Freeney, so why not Avril who’s younger and plays a position they seem to have a bigger need at?

Where he ends up: The Browns and Colts could get into a bidding war for Avril’s services and if that happens I would give the Colts the edge because they play on turf, just like he did in Detroit. In the end, I believe he will stay in the NFC and continue to play his home games indoors, albeit in another division. ATLANTA

6. Dwight Freeney, LB
Freeney has 107.5 career sacks, but has seen his production decline in that category four straight seasons. So while the 33-year-old may not be an every-down defender anymore, there should more than enough left in the tank to contribute as a pass-rush specialist for another team, especially a contender. Besides, a change of scenery did wonders for Peyton Manning’s career, so why can’t the same thing happen for another former All-Pro Colt?

Potential interested teams: Whether you believe the rumors or not, Denver does make a lot of sense and not just because of the Freeney-Peyton Manning ties. Other teams that could use Freeney’s talents include Arizona, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Houston, New England and Tampa Bay.

Comes down to: Broncos or bust? Again, this just makes a lot of sense as the best situation for Freeney appears to be one where he can be used on a rotational basis and not as an every-down player.

Potential dark horses: If not Denver, I think it would have to be somewhere he thinks he can win, like Atlanta, Houston or New England. Freeney is a Connecticut native and played for Syracuse in college if that means anything.

Where he ends up: Not to repeat myself, but Freeney to Denver almost makes too much sense. So watch him end up in Arizona instead. DENVER

7. Greg Jennings, WR
Jennings wants to be paid like a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver, but he hasn’t produced like one since 2010. Injuries have limited him to just 21 games and a total of 13 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He had 12 touchdown receptions in 2010 alone. With the right fit, and if he can stay healthy, Jennings still has more than enough talent to be an impact receiver, considering he has 53 career touchdowns in seven seasons.

Potential interested teams: Pretty much the same list as Wallace’s – Buffalo, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Miami, Minnesota, St. Louis and Tennessee – but his market also could include some other teams since Jennings probably won’t come as expensive as Wallace.

Comes down to: If the Dolphins miss on Wallace, then I suspect they would turn their attention to Jennings. Otherwise, I look for the Bills, Browns, Rams and Vikings to gauge the most interest with the Titans hanging around for a bit.

Potential dark horse: Even though they are similar, who wouldn’t want to see Jennings and Andre Johnson lined up on opposite sides in Houston? I know Texans fans and Matt Schaub probably would.

Where he ends up: In my opinion, Wallace is Miami’s Plan A and Jennings is Plan B. Since I think the Dolphins reel in Wallace, that leaves the Browns and Vikings as Jennings’ most aggressive suitors. One of these teams plays indoors, which is nice, but it’s the same division as his former team and nowhere near the same level of quarterback. Besides, it’s not like Jennings hasn’t played outside in cold weather before. CLEVELAND

8. Dashon Goldson, S
Goldson earned first-team All-Pro honors last season, doing his part to fully maximize his value in a contract year. The secondary market is flooded, but it’s clear that Goldson is one of the more attractive options out there. He would probably like nothing more than to return to San Francisco and try and help the 49ers make it to a second straight Super Bowl, but will the lure of more money be too tough to pass up?

Potential interested teams: San Francisco has to be considered the lead dog, but the 49ers will have plenty of competition for the All-Pro safety’s services. Teams like Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Green Bay, Miami, New England and Philadelphia have room in their secondary and/or salary cap.

Comes down to: The 49ers versus everyone else, but in particular the other contenders like the Broncos, Packers and Patriots. The Bengals could be a player too if they present him with a big offer.

Potential dark horse: Watch out for the Eagles. Brian Kelly may be new to the NFL, but he’s got plenty of cap space to work with and the team’s new brain trust would make a huge statement to the fans by signing Goldson. Kelly also should be somewhat familiar with Goldson since he played in college at Washington, one of Oregon’s Pac-12 rivals.

Where he ends up: This situation definitely bears watching. As much as the 49ers want to keep Goldson, I just have a hard time seeing how they can afford him, especially following the trade for Boldin. Even though San Francisco presents him with the best chance to win, I think he capitalizes on his prime position in the secondary market and maximizes his payday. CINCINNATI

9. Steven Jackson, RB
It may be hard to believe, but even though he’s produced eight straight 1,000-yard seasons, Jackson has yet to turn 30. Still there’s no denying that Jackson has lots of tread on the tires, as he’s logged nearly 2,400 carries in his nine seasons. The good thing for Jackson is that very few teams rely on just one main back to carry the load, which should only help his chances of landing with a new team.

Potential interested teams: While I suspect a lot of teams are interested in Jackson, my guess is he wants an opportunity that will allow him the chance to carry the ball a lot and win. These two factors taken together limit his market.

Comes down to: Atlanta or Green Bay. The Falcons have already cut Michael Turner, a role that Jackson could easily fill, while the Packers desperately could use more production out of their running game.

Potential dark horse: I don’t think there’s one, but for the sake of argument I’ll say Cincinnati just because the Bengals appear to be an up-and-coming team and they should be able to find a way to fit him in their roster and backfield, even though they already have a similar type of back in BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

Where he ends up: The Falcons make a lot of sense, but I think they will go with a younger option, which leaves the Bengals and the Packers. In this case, it’s pretty clear to me that the best chance for carries is in Green Bay, where Jackson’s blocking and pass-catching skills would also be a good fit with Aaron Rodgers. GREEN BAY

10. James Harrison, LB
The 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year has not had the same impact on the field over the last two seasons. Injuries played a part in this, but in the end, Pittsburgh decided to sever its ties with the five-time Pro Bowler. Even with his age (35 in May) and diminishing production, Harrison will probably not lack for suitors, although my guess is he would prefer a situation that offers him his best chance at another Super Bowl ring.

Potential interested teams: Harrison’s market is another tough one to get a grasp of, but I’ll pick Baltimore, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, New England, Oakland, Philadelphia and San Diego as the teams most likely to kick the tires.

Comes down to: How badly he wants to play for a contender versus possibly making more money. The Browns, Colts and Jaguars can probably pay him more, but do they want to? Harrison would probably prefer playing for the Eagles, Patriots or Ravens, which would allow him at least two shots against his old team, but it will have to be on the team’s terms and not his. I think the latter matters more to him.

Potential dark horse: Cincinnati for three reasons – 1) They have plenty of cap space 2) He’s from Akron, Ohio, and played in college at in-state school Kent State 3) Like the Browns they play in the AFC North.

Where he ends up: Wherever he goes, he should be plenty motivated, feeling like he has something to prove. Also, which head coach has a track record for taking on reclamation projects, if you will, and having success with them? That’s right, Bill Belichick. NEW ENGLAND

11. Brian Urlacher, LB
Unless he changes his mind, Urlacher will be playing a 14th NFL season this fall. Chicago would love nothing more than to keep the four-time first-team All-Pro and 2005 NFL Defensive Player of the Year in the fold, but the Bears also have to start looking towards the future at middle linebacker. If not the Windy City, Urlacher should have little trouble finding a new home. For one, there could be no better mentor and example to learn from for a young linebacker than the likely future Hall of Famer.

Potential interested teams: He may no longer be the dominant, every-down force he once was, but there are very few teams that Urlacher wouldn’t represent an upgrade for in their linebacking corps. Money is no doubt important, but I don’t think it’s the biggest driving force for Urlacher, who wants to win. Cincinnati, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay all come to mind, as do contenders like Houston and New England, and of course there’s Chicago.

Comes down to: Urlacher’s agent has already presented the Bears with a contract proposal, so at least we know the two sides are talking. I think Urlacher’s side is willing to meet the Bears more than halfway on this one, so it’s up to Chicago to come the rest of the way. Otherwise, I think he goes to a team like the Browns, Bengals or Eagles, who all offer the same sort of climate as that of the Windy City.

Potential dark horses: I’ll give you two – Dallas because his former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is there now and St. Louis because he seems to fit the mold of a Jeff Fisher-type player.

Where he ends up: It may be the Bears fan in me talking, but I think the two sides work together to ensure that Urlacher finishes his career where he rightfully should. CHICAGO

12. Osi Umenyiora, DE
So why would a 31-year-old backup defensive end like Umenyiora be so attractive to other teams? For one, considering he played on the same team with the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck, chances are Umenyiora would have started on most every other team in the league. Second, the three years he has started all 16 games (2005, ’07, ’10) he had at least 11.5 sacks in each season. Teams looking for a pass-rush specialist could do a lot worse than this Giant.

Potential interested teams: If the price is right, Umenyiora could up anywhere, including back with the Giants. However, I think he wants to capitalize on his free agent status and look to land somewhere he can be a full-time starter. I’ll put Cleveland, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Oakland, Tampa Bay and Tennessee into that category.

Comes down to: The Browns, Buccaneers, Colts, Jaguars and Raiders appear to be the best options on the money and playing time front for Umenyiora, although I wouldn’t rule out Andy Reid trying to lure his former NFC East foe to Kansas City either.

Potential dark horses: Detroit and Philadelphia. For the Lions he could be a cheaper, albeit older, replacement for Avril while the Eagles could pay him and offer him a chance to hurt his former team.

Where he ends up: The Eagles are awfully tempting for the revenge factor, but I don’t think his age fits in with the team’s plans. Umenyiora played his college football at Troy, which is located in the deep south, so I’ll say he ends up in the same geographical region and in the NFC South, a division where getting to the quarterback is paramount to success. TAMPA BAY

13. Michael Bennett, DE
Bennett doesn’t have the track record or resume of Avril or even Umenyiora, but he did have a breakthrough 2012 season. He registered nine sacks, which was three more than he had collected in his first three seasons combined, and also forced three fumbles. Like Avril, Bennett will turn 27 in November, so the potential is there for a team to lock up a potential difference-maker on its defensive line for years to come.

Potential interested teams: Bennett is reportedly not a priority for Tampa Bay, which makes little sense to me unless his contract demands are outrageous. If that is the case, however, I don’t think he will lack for other suitors as teams like Arizona, Jacksonville, Oakland, Philadelphia, Tennessee among others would like nothing more than to add him to their roster.

Comes down to: Despite the seeming lack of attention from the Buccaneers to this point, Bennett has said he will give the team the opportunity to match any offers he receives. If anything, he should be able to find out just how much the team values him. I suspect the Jaguars, Eagles and Titans will be more than happy to test that theory as well.

Potential dark horse: Atlanta. The Falcons have seen this guy in person, so they fully know what he’s capable of, and his younger age is just a bonus.

Where he ends up: Some football observers think Bennett and not Avril or Umenyiora is the best defensive end on the market. If that’s the case, then I suspect a team will have no problem paying him like one. TENNESSEE

14. Reggie Bush, RB
It is pretty much a foregone conclusion that Bush will be playing for his third NFL team in eight seasons this fall. While the No. 2 overall pick of the 2006 NFL Draft has failed to produce along those lines, Bush is coming off of two productive seasons in Miami in which he rushed for a total of 2,072 yards. At just 28 years old, Bush may get another shot at proving he can be a premier back, but at the very least he should be a very productive, potentially dynamic weapon in the right offense.

Potential interested teams: Detroit is the team that’s been most associated with Bush already. I would add Arizona, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Indianapolis to it, with Green Bay and Philadelphia as more remote possibilities.

Comes down to: The situation that offers him the best fit and chance to maximize his talents and capabilities, along with getting paid a “fair” wage. Again the Lions meet the criteria, as do the Cardinals, Bengals, Eagles and Packers.

Potential dark horse: I’ll say St. Louis because the Rams play on turf and with Jackson pretty much out the door, their backfield is up in the air for the most part.

Where he ends up: Detroit and Bush seem tailor-made for each other, as he can team with Mikel Leshoure and potentially form a potent backfield. If not the Lions, watch for the Cardinals or Bengals. DETROIT

15. Charles Woodson, DB
The 15-year veteran and 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year was limited to just seven games last season because of injuries. Combine that with the fact he will turn 37 in October and it’s clear that he’s nearing the end of a career that will more than likely result in enshrinement in Canton, Ohio. That said, Woodson could still either serve as a key contributor for a contending team that’s lacking something in its secondary or a valuable mentor for a team with young players in its defensive backfield.

Potential interested teams: At least four teams – Miami, New York Giants, New York Jets and Seattle – have reportedly already made overtures to Woodson, so it seems there is some sort of market for him. I would think Denver, Houston and possibly New England also may kick the tires a little bit at some point.

Comes down to: Does Woodson want to win or play a lot? For example, the Dolphins can probably pay him more, but Seattle is in much better shape to not only make the playoffs, but contend for a title next season. Unless a non-contender is willing to pay him a lot, I think winning trumps the number of snaps he gets on the field.

Potential dark horses: Cincinnati or Cleveland. Even though the Bengals offer the better chance at winning, both AFC North teams can pay and have room for him, albeit in different roles, in their respective secondaries. He also is no stranger to playing in cold weather.

Where he ends up: If he’s willing to play second fiddle, Woodson would be an awfully nice supporting piece in Seattle’s already stout secondary. The Seahawks have already showed the league that they are all in next season with the acquisition of Percy Harvin, so why not add another former NFC North All-Pro? SEATTLE

Others to Watch (in alphabetical order):

John Abraham, DE – A little older (35 in May) than some of the other options out there, Abraham should be able to find a role as a sack specialist for a team like Arizona, Cleveland or Tennessee. He could be an option for Denver if Dwight Freeney doesn’t end up with the Broncos.

Danny Amendola, WR – Wes Welker-lite in a lot of ways, Amendola could land in Cincinnati or Houston as a complementary receiver to A.J. Green or Andre Johnson. He also could stay with St. Louis or end up replacing Welker in New England.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB – Produces when healthy, but staying on the field has been easier said than done for Bradshaw. Just at just 27 years old, some team that needs a big back, like Atlanta, Indianapolis, San Diego or Tennessee, is sure to give him a look.

Jared Cook, TE – Tennessee chose not to tag its 25-year-old tight end for some reason. Don't be surprised if the Titans’ loss ends up being Chicago’s, and, more importantly, Jay Cutler’s gain. The Bears haven’t had a viable tight end target since Greg Olsen got traded.

Victor Cruz, WR – Cruz is a restricted free agent with a first-round tender, but Minnesota and St. Louis both have two first-round picks in April’s draft and could take a chance and force the New York Giants to have to match their offer. New England also could be lying in the weeds, especially if Welker doesn't come back. I don’t think Cruz goes anywhere else, but I also don’t believe the Giants want to have to match someone else’s offer to keep him.

Fred Davis, TE – Last season was basically a lost cause for Davis, but he has had two seasons with 48 or more catches. Teams in need of tight end help like Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City, Tampa Bay, or possibly even Atlanta should Tony Gonzalez not return, could express interest.

Dannell Ellerbe, LB – With Ray Lewis retired and fellow linebacker Paul Kruger (see below) also a free agent, Baltimore can ill afford to let Ellerbe get away.

Shonn Greene, RB – He’s put up back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and won't turn 28 until August. His best fit would be as a complementary back. If Atlanta doesn’t get Steven Jackson, I think the Falcons will take a long look at Greene.

Brent Grimes, CB – If Grimes can prove he’s completely recovered from the torn Achilles tendon that he sustained in Week 2 last season, he should find a healthy market for his services. I think Atlanta does all it can to bring him back, but if not the Falcons the 2010 Pro Bowler would probably attract the attention of the likes of Cincinnati, Denver, the New York Giants, New York Jets, New Orleans and Tampa Bay.

Paul Kruger, LB – Came up big for Baltimore in the sack department last season (9.0), but don’t expect him to remain with the Ravens. Cleveland and Indianapolis could engage in a bidding war for Kruger’s services, and I’ll give the edge to the Colts and head coach Chuck Pagano, Kruger’s former coordinator in Baltimore.

Andy Levitre, OL – Levitre may not be flashy, but he’s one of the better offensive guards on the market and could be one of the safest options available. Chicago, Cincinnati, Green Bay, San Diego and Tennessee all could be players for him.

Phil Loadholt, OL – Adrian Peterson sure doesn’t want to see his big right tackle leave Minnesota, but the Vikings chose not to use the franchise tag on Loadholt to make sure he would stay. The Vikings won’t let him get away without a fight, I’m guessing, but Chicago, Oakland and San Diego may be willing to battle them for his services.

Rey Maualuga, LB – An under-the-radar type of player, Maualuga played a huge role in Cincinnati’s growth as a defense last season. The Bengals should make every effort to retain him, but Baltimore, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay could make their own bids for Maualuga.

Aqib Talib, CB – got his second chance in New England after getting traded from Tampa Bay last season. Patriots need him too much with so many free agent defensive backs to let him get away now. Washington could be a dark horse even with their cap troubles because Raheem Morris, Talib's former head coach in Tampa Bay, is now with the Redskins.

Sebastian Vollmer, OT – Similar to Levitre, Vollmer doesn’t get that much publicity, but he got the job done as New England’s starting right tackle the last three seasons. The Patriots have so many free agents and holes to fill, however, that they may not be able to compete in a bidding war with Arizona, Chicago, Jacksonville, Miami, Oakland, San Diego and/or Tennessee should it get to that point.

<p> 2013 NFL Free Agency: Players to Watch</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 10:40
Path: /college-football/arkansas-razorbacks-2013-spring-football-preview

Fans in Fayetteville (and some uninformed SEC media members) had no idea how important Bobby Petrino was to the Arkansas program. After a heart-breaking offseason, the Razorbacks did little during the fall to prove they could survive without their fired head coach. The offense plummeted to 89th nationally in scoring and 49th in total yards following Petrino's ouster. The end result was the worst football season — eight losses — since entering the SEC in 1992. Needless to say, the one-year John L. Smith experiment didn't work so Arkansas turned to three-time Big Ten champion Bret Bielema to rebuild the program. In the SEC West, he has his work cut out for him.

Arkansas Razorbacks 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 4-8 (2-6)

Spring practice dates: March 10-April 20

Returning Starters: Offense – 3, Defense – 8

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Brandon Allen, 21 of 49, 186 yards, 1 TDs, 3 INTs
Rushing: Jonathan Williams, 45 car., 231 yards, 0 TDs
Receiving: Mekale McKay, 21 rec., 317 yards, 2 TDs
Tackles: Rohan Gaines, 75
Sacks: Chris Smith, 9.5
Interceptions: Three tied with 1

Redshirts to Watch: OL Jeremy Ward, DE Taiwan Johnson, DE Brandon Lewis, CB Jared Collins, RB Donovan Roberts, DT Darius Philon

JUCO Transfers to Watch: LB Martell Spaight, OL Jonathan McClure, CB Carroll Washington, S Tiquention Coleman

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Louisiana-Monroe
Sept. 7 Samford
Sept. 14 Southern Miss
Sept. 21 at Rutgers
Sept. 28 Texas A&M
Oct. 5 at Florida
Oct. 10 South Carolina
Oct. 19 at Alabama
Oct. 26 Bye Week
Nov. 1 Auburn
Nov. 9 at Ole Miss
Nov. 16 Bye Week
Nov. 23 Mississippi State
Nov. 30 at LSU

Offensive Strength: Pass catchers. Losing Cobi Hamilton will hurt, but five of the top seven receivers return this spring. Sophomore MeKale McCay and seniors Javontee Herndon and Julian Horton will be more than capable of filling the void left by Hamilton.

Offensive Weakness: Everyone else. Only three starters return to the offense and center (Travis Swanson) and tackle (David Hurt) are the only proven commodities. Quarterback, running backs, tight end and three-fifths of the line need replacing.

Defensive Strength: Defensive ends. Chris Smith and Trey Flowers are a solid duo coming off of the edge and will continue to get pressure on quarterbacks.

Defensive Weakness: Overall depth. Two solid ends return to the roster but the rest of the front seven needs replacing. Five of the top eight linemen are gone and four of the top six linebackers have departed. And the secondary underachieved last year.

Spring Storylines Facing the Hogs:

1. Be physical up front on offense. Bobby Petrino's system can be miscast as a high-flying spread offense. He always turned to the power running game to set up his quarterbacks, and the inability to run the ball was a huge factor in the Hogs' struggles a year ago. This team ranked last in the SEC in rushing and will face elite defenses in Alabama, Florida, LSU and South Carolina in 2013. Three starters are gone from the O-line as is the backfield tandem of Knile Davis and Dennis Johnson so there are big holes to fill. Bielema made his money in the Big Ten playing physical, power football and he has a star in center Travis Swanson to build around. Finding blockers and ball-carriers to support him will go a long way this spring to setting the tempo for the fall.

2. Find a workhorse tailback. To quote Steven Lassan from the SEC Spring Storylines to Watch: The Razorbacks were the SEC’s worst rushing attack last season, averaging just 118.7 yards per game. And the cupboard is looking a little bare for spring practice, as Knile Davis left for the NFL and Dennis Johnson finished his eligibility. Jonathan Williams is expected to work as the No. 1 back this spring and is still largely an unknown after recording just 45 carries last year. The sophomore did show promise in limited work but needs to have a strong showing this spring, especially with touted freshman Alex Collins arriving this summer. With a new quarterback taking over, along with Bret Bielema’s run-first mentality, the spotlight is on Williams to show he can be a No. 1 back. I couldn't have said it better myself.

3. Develop the talent in the secondary. A big chunk of those 409.9 yards allowed were passing yards. Most of the talent is back in the secondary minus hybrid safety Ross Rasner. The talent is there in the form of Tevin Mitchell, Rohan Gaines and Will Hines, but the production isn't yet. Developing this area of the defense through the coaching and practicing of sound fundamentals should improve what was the SEC's worst passing defense (285.8 ypg).

4. Rebuild depth in the front seven. The good news is the top two sack artists return to the roster in the form of Chris Smith (9.5 sacks) and Trey Flowers (6.0) while Otha Peters and A.J. Turner return at linebacker. That said, there is little depth behind them at end, tackle and linebacker. In a league predicated on being physical up front, particularly on defense, depth is imperative. Arkansas allowed over 400 yards of offense per game last year (409.9) and were gashed up front by powerful rushing attacks like Alabama, Texas A&M and Mississippi State. Finding a supporting cast for what could be a solid front seven will help keep Arkansas in games with a host of bigger, more powerful programs on the '13 slate.

5. Settle on a quarterback. Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson were two of the most productive quarterbacks in school history and Bielema's first big decision will come under center. Brandon Allen played five games a year ago with nondescript results as the backup to Wilson. Dual-threat athlete Brandon Mitchell got some garbage time as well. Knowing Bielema's run-heavy, pro-style attack, fans should expect Allen to earn the starting nod. The question then becomes is he ready to compete at an SEC level?

6. Get to know the new faces. The new coaching staff is just a part of the massive turnover taking place in Fayetteville. A host of new junior college transfers and redshirt freshmen will officially join the depth chart in an effort to ease Bielema into the SEC. Important voids at linebacker and offensive line could be filled by some of these new faces this spring.

Related College Football Content

Ranking the SEC Coaching Jobs for 2013

Ranking All 125 College Football Coaching Jobs for 2013

College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2013

College Football's Top 10 Spring Storylines to Watch for 2013

College Football's Top 15 Spring Quarterback Battles to Watch

<p> Arkansas Razorbacks 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 10:30
Path: /college-basketball/2013-march-madness-ncaa-tournament-schedule-and-key-dates

From the NCAA conference touranments to Selection Sunday to the Championship game, here are the key dates for 2013 March Madness:

NCAA Tournament 2013Conference championship games

Saturday, March 9: Atlantic Sun, Ohio Valley
Sunday, March 10: Big South, Missouri Valley
Monday, March 11: Colonial, MAAC, Southern, West Coast
Tuesday, March 12: Horizon, Summit, Sun Belt
Wednesday, March 13: Northeast, Patriot
Saturday, March 16: America East, Big 12, Big East, Big Sky, Big West, Conference USA, MAC, MEAC, Mountain West, Pac-12, Southland, SWAC, WAC
Sunday, March 17: Atlantic 10, ACC, Big Ten, SEC

Selection Sunday
March 17

First Four
Dayton, Ohio
Tuesday, March 19 and Wednesday, 20

Round of 64 and 32
Thursday, March 21 and Saturday, March 23:
Auburn Hills, Mich.
Lexington, Ky.
Salt Lake City
San Jose

Friday, March 22 and Sunday, March 24:
Austin, Texas
Dayton, Ohio
Kansas City

Sweet 16 and Elite Eight
Thursday, March 28 and Saturday, March 30
East Regional: Washington, D.C.
West Regional: Los Angeles

Friday, March 29 and Sunday, March 31
Midwest Regional:
South Regional: Arlington, Texas

Final Four and National Championship Game
Saturday, April 6 and Monday, April 8


<p> 2013 March Madness: NCAA Tournament schedule and key dates</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy, News
Path: /mlb/2013-fantasy-baseball-rankings-second-base

Opening Day is less than three weeks away, meaning the fantasy baseball season is quickly approaching. Drafts are going across the country, and probably the globe, and Athlon Sports' annual Baseball Preview magazine is available on newsstands everywhere.

Besides providing our comprehensive Fantasy Baseball Big Board, we also have our positional rankings, courtesy of Bruce Herman, straight from our magazine for you to peruse, utilize and scrutinize as we get ever so closer to hear those beloved words, "Play ball!"

Rankings Key
A: FRANCHISE PLAYER — You need one to compete, two to win, three to dominate.
B: CAREER YEAR — Veteran with a strong possibility of delivering his best season.
C: SLEEPER — Could be a great acquisition at a price or draft slot below his true value.
D: ROADBLOCKED — Rank has been lowered because there is no current opportunity to play regularly.
E: DECLINER — Expect moderately to significantly worse stats than in 2012.
F: INJURY RISK — Has had a recent injury that could affect performance.
G: INVESTOR’S SPECIAL — Top prospect whose immediate impact may be minimal.

Batting stats are expressed AVG-HR-RBI-R-SB

Fantasy Baseball Positional Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | DH | SP | RP

Athlon Sports' 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Second Base

1. Robinson Cano, Yankees (A)
Unless Cano opens the season on the DL with a subluxation of the psyche after that 3-for-40 postseason abomination, he occupies a tier all his own. His .313-33-94-105 of 2012 has never been replicated by a non-steroid-implicated American League second baseman — and this was the fourth straight season he’s done something comparable.

2. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
Pedroia’s .300 AVG, 15 HRs and 20 SBs are a given, but his runs and RBIs fluctuate appreciably depending upon batting order nuances. Last year was his first with an OPS below .800. Then again, he was essentially the lone bastion of normalcy in Boston.

3. Jason Kipnis, Indians
Last year, we pegged Kipnis as the “second coming of Chase Utley,” and though his inability to solve southpaws bumped him slightly off track, we’ll stand by the assessment. Stolen bases in the 30s will tide you over while he smooths the wrinkles.

4. Ian Kinsler, Rangers
Kinsler — a two-time 30-30 asset — took a step back, chiefly because his swings and misses rocketed from 102 to 166. Though retaining at least 20-20 prospects, he’s failed to break .260 three of the last four years. Homered three times in the first six games of both 2011 and 2012.

5. Ben Zobrist, Rays
Zobrist is precious defensively (he also qualifies at shortstop and in the outfield), and he’s put two strong offensive seasons back-to-back for the first time. A quantum upgrade in his SO/BB ratio from 1.66 (2006-11) to 1.06 suggests he still may have another level in him.

6. Brandon Phillips, Reds
Other than de-emphasizing the speed component of his game (as most 30-somethings do), Phillips has been astoundingly consistent. He’s the only keystoner besides Cano with a .275 AVG, 18 homers and 75 runs every year since 2009.

7. Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks (E)
Hill is either the guy who averaged 29 homers in his three best seasons or the one who’s totaled 36 in his other five. He’s either the guy who’s topped .290 three times or the one who once batted .225 over a 275-game period. Enjoy the ride.

8. Jose Altuve, Astros
Altuve supplied the first-ever 160-hit/30-steal season by 5'5" player, but he’s no novelty act. An All-Star at 22, he’s got surprising pop and patience. Whether he can avoid wearing down is the long and “short” of it.

9. Dustin Ackley, Mariners (B)
He was once regarded as a future batting title contender, but Ackley’s first full season was a tire fire. His .226 AVG was one of the 11 lowest by a qualifying AL second sacker in the past half-century. That aside, his baleful .265 BAbip and amply evident ability make him an alluring post-hype play.

10. Danny Espinosa, Nationals
Espinosa is the lone National League second baseman with at least 15 swats and 15 swipes each of the last two seasons, but the price exacted from the fourth-most strikeouts in the game during that span was a .242 AVG.

11. Howard Kendrick, Angels
After years of guessing what Kendrick could be if he played full-time, we now know precisely what he is: his three-year average of .284-12-68-70-14. Recommended to those with low risk tolerance and realistic expectations.

12. Rickie Weeks, Brewers
By the time he rose above the Mendoza Line on July 26, Weeks had critically wounded many a fantasy season. A trio of 20-homer/75-run seasons in a row commands respect, but brace yourself for mixed messages.

13. Chase Utley, Phillies (F)
Chondromalacia sounds as if it ought to be somewhere in between Bangladesh and Phnom Penh, but it’s actually just this side of Utley’s right femur and tibia. The chronic condition has clouded his future — though the future even of healthy 34-year-old second basemen is limited. Nonetheless, he’s shown above-average productivity when ambulatory.

14. Neil Walker, Pirates (F)
Kendrick-like in his humdrum competence across all five categories. Has one home run in 320 plate appearances as a right-handed hitter since 2011. Non-surgical herniated disk that shelved him late last year bears monitoring.

15. Dan Uggla, Braves
Uggla is easily the position’s home run king since he debuted in 2006, but his 19 last year were a personal trough by eight. Having batted above .260 only twice in seven seasons and bottoming out at .220 in 2012, he’s threatening to run out of positive categories.

16. Emilio Bonifacio, Blue Jays
17. Gordon Beckham, White Sox (B)
18. Daniel Murphy, Mets (B)
19. Josh Rutledge, Rockies (C)
20. Marco Scutaro, Giants (E)

21. Jemile Weeks, Athletics
22. Omar Infante, Tigers
23. Logan Forsythe, Padres (C)
24. Matt Carpenter, Cardinals (C)
25. Darwin Barney, Cubs
26. Brian Dozier, Twins
27. Donovan Solano, Marlins

28. Alexi Casilla, Orioles
29. Johnny Giavotella, Royals
30. Kelly Johnson, Free Agent (E)
31. Maicer Izturis, Blue Jays
32. Brian Roberts, Orioles (F)
33. Ryan Roberts, Rays
34. Steve Lombardozzi, Nationals
35. Chris Getz, Royals
36. Jedd Gyorko, Padres (G)
37. Daniel Descalso, Cardinals
38. Mark Ellis, Dodgers
39. Kolten Wong, Cardinals (G)
40. Skip Schumaker, Dodgers (E)

Related Content:
2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Big Board
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Relief Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball: Closer Grid
2013 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2013

<p> 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Second Base</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy, News
Path: /mlb/2013-fantasy-baseball-rankings-third-base

Opening Day is less than three weeks away, meaning the fantasy baseball season is quickly approaching. Drafts are going across the country, and probably the globe, and Athlon Sports' annual Baseball Preview magazine is available on newsstands everywhere.

Besides providing our comprehensive Fantasy Baseball Big Board, we also have our positional rankings, courtesy of Bruce Herman, straight from our magazine for you to peruse, utilize and scrutinize as we get ever so closer to hear those beloved words, "Play ball!"

Rankings Key
A: FRANCHISE PLAYER — You need one to compete, two to win, three to dominate.
B: CAREER YEAR — Veteran with a strong possibility of delivering his best season.
C: SLEEPER — Could be a great acquisition at a price or draft slot below his true value.
D: ROADBLOCKED — Rank has been lowered because there is no current opportunity to play regularly.
E: DECLINER — Expect moderately to significantly worse stats than in 2012.
F: INJURY RISK — Has had a recent injury that could affect performance.
G: INVESTOR’S SPECIAL — Top prospect whose immediate impact may be minimal.

Batting stats are expressed AVG-HR-RBI-R-SB

Fantasy Baseball Positional Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | DH | SP | RP

Athlon Sports' 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Third Base

1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (A)
The Triple Crown winner hasn’t actually hit a triple in his last 393 games. And Cabrera won only three-fifths of the AL Fantasy Quintuple Crown (runs and steals to Mike Trout). Guess we can live with those quibbles considering this four-category leviathan is the only player with a .320 AVG, 200 homers, 700 RBIs and 600 runs since 2007.

2. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals (A,B)
Zimmerman continues to waft just a notch below his perceived upside. His best season to date has been .292-33-106-110 in 2009 for a 59-win team. Now 28 and swathed with his strongest lineup support ever, we’d gauge that as the lower end of his 2013 prospectus.

3. Adrian Beltre, Rangers (A)
Beltre claims his own version of the Triple Crown: He leads all players who’ve been primarily third basemen in AVG-HR-RBI-R since 2010. At 33, he continues to rake at an extraordinarily high level despite spitting on sabermatric spread sheets by collecting more home runs (68) than walks (61) the past two years.

4. Evan Longoria, Rays
Now that he’s healthy again and under contract until the game is being played with orbs and light sabers, the stage is set for Longoria to return to or exceed his .281-33-113-100 array of 2009. Lacks the batting average chops to be a genuinely elite fantasy force.

5. David Wright, Mets
Full-season average at Shea: .311-32-114-110-22. Four-season average at Citi: .284-26-86-95-23. The latter is now the template. In 2012, once his AVG fell below .400 on May 25, the $122 million man hit .273 the rest of the way. What a country.

6. Chase Headley, Padres (E)
The odds of Headley leading the NL in RBIs last year were about the same as the fastest man on Earth being named “Bolt.” Oh, he is? He did? Disregarding his stupid .308-23-73-56 second half, his career 150-game average is .268-11-60-62. Undoubtedly, he’s a better hitter now — but seriously?

7. Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays (B)
Lawrie not only failed to take the next step, but he also staggered backwards. Regardless, we’re true believers. As a high-strung 23-year-old with sore ribs often miscast atop the order, he had plenty of pretexts for a so-so soph season. Toronto’s refortified lineup, which includes Jose Reyes to relieve him of leadoff chores, will unclutter his path.

8. Aramis Ramirez, Brewers (E)
A poor man’s Beltre — a little older, slightly less productive. Has had months, even years, when he appeared to be toast — but in the second half of 2012 (.990 OPS), he was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Unrepeatable.

9. Martin Prado, Braves
Prado will hit fewer home runs than any third baseman in the top three tiers. Deal with it. If he splices all of his career highs together — not out of the question — he’ll provide a .307-15-70-100-17 line. Know how many players managed that in 2012? Three — names of Trout, Braun and McCutchen.

10. David Freese, Cardinals
Above-average in four categories, distinctive in none. Older than you think; turns 30 in April despite having played just one complete season.

11. Pablo Sandoval, Giants
A climactic postseason glossed over a vanilla regular slate diminished by his customary combat with injuries and calories. Tier 2 upside with low reliability.

12. Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox
An up-and-comer whose fine 75-game body of work is, after all, just 75 games. A 5.4 SO-to-BB ratio insinuates caution at this early stage.

13. Pedro Alvarez, Pirates
Low-contact lumberer whose value is concentrated in his 30-longball lumber, at least for the moment. Had .644 OPS and 31 strikeouts in September, so evidently he’s still searching.

14. Mike Moustakas, Royals
Clawed his way to 20 homers in his first full season, but batted .224 in his last 112 games — primarily because of indiscriminate pitch selection and an inclination to lob everything into the air. Possibly overhyped.

15. Todd Frazier, Reds
Later-blooming version of Moustakas with analogous glitches and a parallel late-season fade — but with a stat-twisting six-week torrid streak that may have cloaked a soft underbelly.

16. Kyle Seager, Mariners (E)
17. Manny Machado, Orioles

18. Kevin Youkilis, Yankees
19. Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians (C)
20. Michael Young, Phillies
21. Jordan Pacheco, Rockies
22. Chris Nelson, Rockies (C)
23. Trevor Plouffe, Twins
24. Jeff Keppinger, White Sox (E)
25. Josh Donaldson, Athletics
26. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees (E,F)

27. Ian Stewart, Cubs (F)
28. Matt Dominguez, Astros
29. Luis Cruz, Dodgers
30. Alberto Callaspo, Angels
31. Juan Francisco, Braves (C)
32. Pedro Ciriaco, Red Sox
33. Eric Chavez, Diamondbacks
34. Chris Johnson, Diamondbacks (E)
35. Placido Polanco, Marlins (F)
36. Greg Dobbs, Marlins (E)
37. Josh Vitters, Cubs (G)
38. Nate Freiman, Astros (G)
39. Danny Valencia, Orioles
40. Brent Morel, White Sox

Related Content:
2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Big Board
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Relief Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball: Closer Grid
2013 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2013

<p> 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Third Base</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 07:10
Path: /nascar/early-season-favorites-emerge-nascar-hypes-gen-6-car

If Matt Kenseth were a betting man, he’d have bought a Play 4 ticket on the way out of Las Vegas.

The numbers? 3-3-3-3.

Kenseth, in the third race of the 2013 season, became career Sprint Cup driver number three to win a race on his birthday (joining Cale Yarborough and Kyle Busch). The new, third member of the Joe Gibbs Racing stable also has more career victories in Vegas (along with Auto Club Speedway) than any other track on the circuit: Three.

Too bad Richard Childress isn’t willing to part with that number, huh? To me, the number could also apply to something else we’re getting a sense of: the list of early title favorites. Has Kenseth snuck into that picture? Let’s find out while going “Through the Gears” after a weekend out in Sin City…

FIRST GEAR: The title is shaping up to be a Johnson-Keselowski affair
One driver was third, the other sixth. Neither was a factor for the win late at Vegas although they combined to lead a total of 78 laps. But a quick look at the first three races shows that Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski, the same two men who battled down the stretch for the 2012 Cup Series title, are in cruise control up front.

Leading the points is the No. 48 team, with top-10 starting spots in every event, an average finish of 3.0 and a Daytona 500 trophy on the shelf. Crew chief Chad Knaus, who was lauded for being ahead of the curve with NASCAR’s Car of Tomorrow chassis, was expected to do the same with the Gen-6. That’s what you expect from the best mechanic in the sport, and to his credit, Knaus has delivered.

Sitting five points behind Hendrick’s top team is Keselowski, who has battled through far more adversity but still has the same number of top-10 results (three-for-three). Considering the offseason changeover (new manufacturer, new teammate, new engines) the speed and versatility Penske Racing’s top team has shown is just as impressive. It’s driver’s confidence as reigning champ is palpable, retaining his outspoken nature while continuing a role as an emerging leader within the sport. While Denny Hamlin’s “slap on the wrist” from NASCAR caused him to be a bit off on Sunday, finishing 15th, Keselowski has had no such detours after his talking-to at Daytona. That’s what separates the good from the great: an ability to tune out distractions and fight through the pressure.

The Gen-6 car was supposed to provide a big opportunity for the other teams to catch up to this duo. But the standings three races in aren’t an indictment on those changes; instead, it’s a showcase of how this rivalry is elevating both drivers to remain head and shoulders above everyone else. Too bad we have to wait until the Chase in September for them to push down on the accelerator for good.

SECOND GEAR: Meanwhile, Kenseth and Joe Gibbs Racing sit as sleepers
No question, anyone with a brain and a pulse expected Kenseth to outpace Joey Logano in Joe Gibbs’ No. 20 Toyota. But even the most optimistic of souls has to raise an eyebrow on what this new combination is doing. Three races in, Kenseth is one-half way towards the total number of victories that car has had in the past four years. His 128 laps led, a NASCAR best, is well on its way to eclipsing Logano’s four-year total of 337 in a matter of several weeks. If not for a faulty engine in the waning laps of the Daytona 500 this team could be out in front of everyone — a point that’s not been lost on its pilot.

“All three races we had a car, if everything would have went right, that we could have won,” he said Sunday night. “And it feels pretty awesome to have this win here.”

Kenseth’s emotions during and after Sunday’s victory made it clear he’s a man on a mission to prove the choice to leave Roush Fenway was the right one. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff has worked out well; his pit strategy of a fuel-only stop was the winning call.

So can JGR catch the top two? The beauty of it is that there is six months left in the regular season to fine-tune on intermediates. But unlike Kenseth, the rest of the stable has to stop shooting itself in the foot. Case in point: Kyle Busch’s speeding penalty, which knocked him out of the top spot at Vegas and threatened to derail his day. Denny Hamlin, for all the fan support he has surrounding the Gen-6 criticism, caused a huge distraction by reacting emotionally to the situation. Add in the motor problems and that’s why this Toyota trio remains a step below for the time being. But the speed is there.

<p> Through the Gears: Four things we learned in the Kobalt Tools 400 in Las Vegas</p>
Post date: Monday, March 11, 2013 - 22:18
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-sooners-2013-spring-football-preview

Even though Oklahoma finished 10-3 and made an appearance in the Cotton Bowl last year, coach Bob Stoops wasn’t satisfied. As a result, the Sooners had a shakeup on the coaching staff, with three new faces coming aboard for 2013. Bill Bedenbaugh was hired away from West Virginia to coach the offensive line, Jay Boulware was brought in to coach tight ends and special teams, while Jerry Montgomery comes from Michigan to coach the defensive line. With the new coaches coming aboard and the loss of a handful of key contributors, this spring is all about getting everyone on the same page. And with a wide-open Big 12 title picture in 2013, Oklahoma is still positioned to be a factor in the conference championship.

Oklahoma Sooners 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 10-3 (8-1)

Spring practice dates: March 9-April 16

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 4

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Blake Bell, 9 of 16, 107 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
Receiving: Damien Williams, 176 car., 946 yards, 11 TDs
Receiving: Jalen Saunders, 62 rec., 829 yards, 3 TDs
Tackles: Aaron Colvin, 61
Sacks: Chuka Ndulue, 5
Interceptions: Aaron Colvin, 4

Redshirts to watch: DL Jordan Wade, RB Alex Ross, DL Charles Tapper, WR Derrick Woods, TE Taylor McNamara, QB Trevor Knight

Early Enrollees to watch: P Jed Barnett (JC), WR Dannon Cavil, S Ahmad Thomas, DE D.J. Ward

JUCO Transfers to watch: P Jed Barnett, DT Quincy Russell, OL Dionte Savage, OL Josiah St. John

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 UL Monroe
Sept. 7 West Virginia
Sept. 14 Tulsa
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 at Notre Dame
Oct. 5 TCU
Oct. 12 Texas (Dallas)
Oct. 19 at Kansas
Oct. 26 Texas Tech
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 7 at Baylor
Nov. 16 Iowa State
Nov. 23 at Kansas State
Nov. 30 Bye Week
Dec. 7 at Oklahoma State

Offensive Strength: Outside of finding a new quarterback, there’s not much for the Sooners to be concerned about on offense. The backfield is deep and talented, led by Damien Williams and fullback Trey Millard. Jalen Saunders, Sterling Shepard and Trey Metoyer are a capable trio at receiver, while the offensive line returns four starters. 

Offensive Weakness: It’s only one position, but it’s a big one: Quarterback. Is Blake Bell the answer under center? We’ll find out this spring.

Defensive Strength: With only four returning starters on defense, the Sooners don’t have a glaring strength. Even with the loss of cornerback Demontre Hurst and safeties Tony Jefferson and Javon Harris, the secondary should rank in the top half of the Big 12 next season.

Defensive Weakness: The front seven is easily the biggest concern for Oklahoma in 2013. There’s very little in the way of proven depth on the line, and Tom Wort must be replaced at linebacker.

Spring Storylines Facing the Sooners

1. The quarterback battle. All eyes in Norman will be on the Sooners’ quarterback battle this spring, as Blake Bell hopes to hold off Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson for the top spot. Bell has shown promise in limited work but most of his snaps have come on running plays. Can Bell consistently beat defenses with his arm? The Sooners have one of the Big 12’s top receiving corps returning for 2013, so if Bell proves he can be the No. 1 quarterback, this offense will be dangerous once again.

2. Who replaces Lane Johnson at left tackle? Oklahoma’s offensive line allowed just 1.2 sacks per game last season and led the way for rushers to average 4.8 yards per carry. With four starters back, this unit is in good shape for 2013. However, the one departure is left tackle Lane Johnson, a likely top-15 pick in the NFL Draft. The Sooners could turn to a couple of different players to replace Johnson, with junior college recruit Josiah St. John likely to get a long look from new line coach Bill Bedenbaugh. If St. John isn’t the answer on the left side, Tyrus Thompson, Daryl Williams or Derek Farniok will compete for the open job. Even though center Gabe Ikard suffered a hand injury in spring practice, Oklahoma isn’t worried about the interior of the line, especially with Tyler Evans returning from a torn ACL that caused him to miss all of 2012.

3. Restocking the defensive line. Just how thin is Oklahoma’s line this spring? Just three defensive tackles will participate in practice, and with more 3-4 looks likely to be implemented this spring, there will be an adjustment period for this unit. Chuka Ndulue is a solid end, but who will fill the voids at tackle? Is junior college recruit Quincy Russell one of the answers? How about redshirt freshman Jordan Wade? If the Sooners struggle to sort out the line, stopping the run could be an issue in 2013.

4. Addressing the holes in the secondary. In an offensive-minded league like the Big 12, it’s not easy to rank inside of the top 30 in pass defense. But that’s exactly what Oklahoma accomplished last season, finishing second in the conference in pass defense and 12th nationally in pass efficiency defense. The secondary suffered some hard hits through the draft and graduation, as cornerback Demontre Hurst and safeties Tony Jefferson and Javon Harris all depart. Aaron Colvin will be the leader of the secondary after earning first-team All-Big 12 honors last season, but this unit needs a big year from Gabe Lynn, Kass Everett, Julian Wilson and Quentin Hayes. This unit isn’t as dire of a concern as the defensive line, but there could be some growing pains early in the year as the Sooners mix and match to find the right combination at cornerback and safety.

Related College Football Content

Big 12 Spring Preview and Storylines to Watch
Ranking the Big 12 Coaching Jobs for 2013

Ranking All 125 College Football Coaching Jobs for 2013

College Football's Top 15 Spring Quarterback Battles for 2013

College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013

TCU Horned Frogs 2013 Spring Preview

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Texas Longhorns 2013 Spring Preview

<p> Oklahoma Sooners 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, March 11, 2013 - 13:55